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Ask Yourself This Question About Every Thought

Daily Stoic Emails

Every minute of every day, thoughts pop into your head. About what’s happening. About other people. About yourself. About what you see. About what you feel. 

What are you supposed to do with all these thoughts? Well, according to the core premise of Stoicism the one thing you’re not supposed to do is act on them immediately. Epictetus talks about stopping and putting every impression to the test. Or, as Dr. Stixraud said on the Daily Stoic podcast recently, with every thought, we must have the discipline to ask: “Is this true?”

All of life is opinion, Marcus Aurelius said. Stuff happens and we make snap judgments. This subjectivity can be very misleading, it can warp reality itself. Which is why we have to slow down, submit every impression to the test, confirm that everything we think and feel is true.

Because most of it isn’t! 

We’re not actually upset, we’re just hungry. We haven’t been wronged, it just looks like we have. There’s nothing actually to worry about, that’s just our anxiety talking. This situation isn’t “bad,” because just as easily we could see what’s “good” in it. Or maybe–as is so often the case–we don’t need to think anything at all, we can just turn off our thoughts about this or that altogether. 

Got it?