Because of how Stoicism survives to us—mostly in the form of scraps and fragments and letters—we don’t exactly have a list of dos and don’ts. There are no Ten Commandments of Stoicism. No definitive book of what they believed or didn’t.
But in those scraps and fragments, we do get plenty. We know what Seneca tried to do every night as he closed the day. We know what Marcus tried to think about in the morning. We know what Epictetus and Musonius Rufus said we ought to avoid doing. It’s that latter category that’s worth thinking about today. What habits did the Stoics say we ought to cease, what vices should we avoid?
Well, here are a few:
- Don’t be overheard complaining…even to yourself (Marcus)
- Don’t put on airs about your self-improvement (Epictetus)
- Don’t overindulge in eating or drinking (Musonius)
- Don’t speak more than you listen (Zeno)
- Don’t avoid difficulty (Seneca)
- Don’t tie your identity to the clothes you wear, things you own (Cato)
- Don’t conceal what you truly believe (Arius Didymus)
- Don’t go along just to get along (Agrippinus)
- Don’t be all about business (Marcus)
- Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be finished today (Seneca)
- Don’t shun people you disagree with (Seneca)
- Don’t sleep the day away (Marcus)
- Don’t neglect your friendships (Seneca)
- Don’t waste time thinking you are going to live forever (all)
We could list more, but really, the most important thing to the Stoics—as far as forming good habits and kicking bad ones—was awareness. Musonius Rufus believed that in “too many circumstances, we do not deal with our affairs in accordance with correct assumptions, but rather we follow thoughtless habit.” And Marcus said we should “learn to ask of all actions, ‘Why are they doing that?’ Starting with your own.”
Daily Stoic’s Habits for Success, Habits for Happiness challenge is a great way to focus on what’s essential for your success. It’s six weeks of challenges and lessons that will teach you the critical daily habits you need to accomplish your goals. Check it out here.
P.S. This was originally sent on November 18, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.