Epictetus once said that “every habit and capability is confirmed and grows in its corresponding actions, walking by walking, and running by running . . . therefore, if you want to do something, make a habit of it.” If you don’t want to do something, he said, make a habit of doing the opposite.
For this reason, the Stoics were big on habits and routines. It appears that Marcus had a morning ritual—a sort of preparation for the day—whereas Seneca preferred to reflect on each day’s end. Marcus’s mentor and stepfather, Antoninus Pius, was supposedly so disciplined in his work day that he limited his bathroom breaks so he could hear more cases and help more people.
It’s been interesting to see a similar theme in the interviews we’ve done with writers for WritingRoutines.com (which has a great weekly email with one brilliant writer each week). These writers are of different backgrounds, styles, genres and levels of success. Each works differently but in the most important way they are all the same: They have a routine. Writers have to. Without rituals and habits, they would never get their difficult job done. They would be, as Steven Pressfield has termed it, victims of the Resistance.
This is true for just about any profession and any desire to live a better life. Routine and habit are the only way to do it. You can’t just randomly improve. You don’t do great work or make great decisions on accident—not, by definition, with regularity anyway. Routine is everything. In life and in philosophy (and if you opened this email today, we’re happy to be part of yours!)