A successful day for a Stoic is simple. It’s not about making more money. Or getting more famous, or dazzling more people with your accomplishments. It’s whether or not you got better.
Specifically, it’s whether you get better at life—more prepared for the troubles, for the temptations, for the opportunities that lay ahead. As Seneca wrote to Lucilius, the prescription for this philosophy is simple:
“Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day.”
It’s interesting how quick we are to apply this thinking to our professional pursuits–always trying to add something to our game, to get a little better. But what about the personal? As Marcus Aurelius would write in Meditations, why are you trying to be a better wrestler but not a better person, a better forgiver of faults, a better friend in tight places? What about being a better parent? A better grandparent?
Is that something you’re working as hard at as you are at making more money? Or maintaining your figure?
The answer to this question is rarely the right one. Even Marcus struggled with it as his conflict with only surviving son, Commodus, showed. And this prompts the next question: Why? Why not?
We say that family is the most important thing…but acta non verba. Deeds are better than words. It’s time to make our “priority” our priority.