#18: Stoic Sage AI Coach, 6 Tips for Peace of Mind, and Varieties of Bad Stoicism

PLUS: How to Police Your Thoughts

Welcome, Stoics.

Discover six practical Stoic principles to simplify and bring peace to your life.

Engage with Marcus Aurelius' techniques for mastering your inner dialogue.

In today’s Nous:

  • ✍️ Modern-Day Marcus Aurelius: Experience a moving fictional narrative reflecting on parental love and Stoic resilience.

  • 🤯 Stoicism as a Life Hack vs. Real Stoicism: Uncover the true essence of Stoicism beyond common misconceptions.

  • 🤖 AI Stoic Coach: Meet Stoic Sage, your AI-powered guide to navigating life's challenges with Stoic wisdom.

Read time: 6 minutes

Editor’s Picks

🏹 Stoic Wisdom Arrows

6️⃣ Six ways to make your life easier and more peaceful – by using Stoic principles: A simple, straight-to-the-point overview of some ways Stoicism can increase our peace of mind. Read the article here.

⚔️ The Stoic Code of Conduct: Donald Robertson attempts to break down a basic Stoic code of conduct that we can all follow to live better and flourish. Read the article here.

One of Stoicism’s Worst Ideas: An interesting essay on the dangers of misinterpreting Stoicism as a form of collectivism. Read the essay here.

Technique Try-Out

🧰 Police Your Thoughts

There are four principal aberrations of the superior faculty against which you should be constantly on your guard, and when you have detected them, you should wipe them out and say on each occasion thus: this thought is not necessary; this tends to destroy social union; this which you are going to say comes not from the real thoughts — for you should consider it among the most absurd of things for a man not to speak from his real thoughts. But the fourth is when you shall reproach yourself for anything, for this is an evidence of the diviner part within you being overpowered and yielding to the less honorable and to the perishable part, the body, and to its gross pleasures.

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations XI.19

The Practice:

  1. Thought Awareness: Throughout the week, take moments to pause and observe your thoughts. Notice what you are thinking without immediately reacting to these thoughts.

  2. Thought Evaluation: For each thought, ask yourself:

    • Is this thought necessary or beneficial at this moment?

    • Does this thought promote harmony with others and within myself?

    • Is this thought reflective of my true beliefs and values, or is it influenced by external factors?

    • Does this thought align with my long-term goals and the person I strive to become?

  3. Thought Selection:

    • Reject thoughts that are unproductive, harmful, or misaligned with your values.

    • Embrace and focus on thoughts that are constructive, truthful, and aligned with your personal growth.

  4. Reflection and Adaptation: At the end of each day, reflect on the thoughts you encountered. Consider how well you managed to align them with your values and what impact this practice had on your day.

  5. Continuous Improvement: Use your daily reflections to refine your thought selection process, making it more intuitive and aligned with your personal growth journey.

By the end of the week, you should notice an increased ability to distinguish between thoughts that serve your purpose and those that do not. This practice aims to foster a more objective, clear-minded approach to life, where your thoughts are tools for personal growth rather than obstacles.

New Ways of Seeing

🤖 Modern-Day Marcus Aurelius Seperated from Child

One of the most agonizing aspects of the human experience, which is frequently overlooked or downplayed by the media, is the heart-wrenching situation of being forcibly separated from your child. This unfortunate circumstance can arise due to various reasons, including challenging logistics, illness, work commitments, travel constraints, custody disputes, and more. In the subsequent moving fictional Meditations entry from Marcus, we discover that he has been denied access to his child by the mother. His contemplations are profoundly touching:

Today, I am confronted with a personal tribulation that tugs at the strings of my heart – the matter of my child, whom I dearly love, yet am barred from seeing. The circumstances, dictated by the will of another, bring forth a deep-seated grief within me.

But, as a student of Stoicism, I remind myself of the dichotomy of control. In the cosmos, some things lie within our power, while others do not. My influence does not extend to the decisions of another, in this case, the mother of my child. To yearn for control over her choices would be as futile as commanding the winds to change their course.

It is within my dominion, however, to govern my reactions, my internal state. Epictetus taught us that it is not events that disturb us, but our interpretation of them. Thus, I must view this situation not as a personal injustice, but as a facet of life's unpredictable nature, to be met with composure and understanding.

Moreover, the love for my child, an unwavering flame in my heart, is not diminished by distance or circumstance. It is a virtue that I can nurture independently, through thoughts, well-wishes, and preparations for any future encounters that fate may allow.

In these moments of reflection, I also ponder the impermanence of all things. This current separation, like all of life's challenges, is transient. Time, the great equalizer, may bring change in ways unforeseen. It is prudent, therefore, to maintain hope, but not to be enslaved by the desire for a specific outcome.

Let me also consider the virtues I can cultivate in this ordeal – patience, resilience, and understanding. These are the true measures of a Stoic’s character, forged in the crucible of adversity.

Lastly, I must remember gratitude. Even in this trial, there are blessings to be found – the very existence of my child, the lessons this challenge imparts, and the opportunity to practice my philosophy in earnest.

Thus, I conclude today's meditation with a heart both heavy and enlightened. The path of a Stoic is not one of ease, but of profound inner peace and strength. In accepting what I cannot change, focusing on what I can, and embracing the wisdom of impermanence, I find my solace.

This trial, like all things, shall pass. And I, steadfast in my philosophy, shall endure.

Turning Theory Into Skill

🧘 Stoicism as a Life Hack vs. Real Stoicism

I found this comic by Existential Comics hilarious and thought-provoking.

Massimo has a brilliant commentary on this cartoon in his Figs in Winter article Varieties of Bad Stoicism. Here is a quick excerpt:

The next three panels in the cartoon (above) identify three of the more widespread varieties of bad Stoicism out there: using the philosophy to advance one’s career, succeed in having sex, and make money. But what’s wrong with these goals, exactly?

They have absolutely nothing to do with Stoicism. See if you can spot a clue in what Epictetus says at the beginning of the Enchiridion:

“Some things are up to us and some are not. Up to us are judgment, inclination, desire, aversion—in short, whatever is our own doing. Not up to us are our bodies, possessions, reputations, public offices—in short, whatever isn’t our own doing.” (Enchiridion 1.1)

In the full article, Pigliucci outlines five fundamental ideas central to Epictetus’ Stoicism:

  1. The distinction between what is within our control and what is not, advocating focus on the former.

  2. The differentiation between objective facts and subjective opinions.

  3. The need for ethical training in reorienting priorities, acting justly, and refining judgments.

  4. The ethos of cosmopolitanism, viewing all humans as akin to siblings.

  5. The importance of attentiveness to thoughts and actions.

The article then discusses three common misuses of Stoicism identified in Mohler's cartoon: using Stoicism for career advancement, sexual success, and monetary gain. Pigliucci emphasizes that these goals are external and irrelevant to Stoicism, which focuses on character development and judgment improvement.

Pigliucci also addresses the controversial connection between Stoicism and warfare, exemplified by James Bond Stockdale, a US Navy Vice Admiral and war hero who credited Epictetus with helping him endure captivity during the Vietnam War. Pigliucci questions the appropriateness of linking Stoicism with military actions, especially in unjust wars. He argues that Stoicism, with its emphasis on cosmopolitanism and fair treatment of others, logically entails opposition to aggressive or unjust wars.

The article concludes by distinguishing between using Stoic techniques as life hacks and genuinely practicing Stoicism as a philosophy of life. Pigliucci asserts that true Stoicism involves adopting the philosophical principles of Epictetus and not just applying Stoic practices for personal gain.

Pigliucci's critique of contemporary Stoicism emphasizes the importance of understanding and applying Stoic philosophy in its true spirit, focusing on ethical self-improvement and the betterment of character, rather than pursuing external and materialistic goals.

Contemplate this:

To what extent do you use Stoicism as a life hack vs. as a philosophy FOR life?

Tech Tool I Use

📆 Podia Course Platform

I’m honored that Podia has been sponsoring my podcast and newsletter over the last few weeks. I will not sponsor or recommend a service that I don’t use myself, and I’ve been using Podia for almost a year now.

It’s the place I upload all of my Stoic courses, experiences, and meditations to. The price is very good, and the functionality includes everything I need. My favourite part is the website builder, which allow you to create great looking sites for your content very quickly.

If you are interested in being a creator of some kind (I know many of you have this aspiration), then I recommend Podia as an important tool in your toolkit.

You can make an account for free here.

Off The Troden Path

📆 Self-Improvement To-Do List

  AI Stoic Coach: I created a unique AI Stoic coach I call Stoic Sage. If you’re struggling with anything you can ask questions and engage in a reflective dialogue. The Sage has access to modern Stoic resources and has the personality of Epictetus. Talk to the Stoic Sage here.

Read: I'm currently finishing off "When Fury Takes Over," an autobiography written by John Fury, the father of Tyson Fury, the World Boxing Heavyweight Champion. John Fury, who comes from a Gypsy background, has been involved in numerous fights throughout his life, both in official boxing matches and on the streets. This heartfelt biography delves into his struggles with anger, which ultimately led to him being incarcerated multiple times.

Stretch: I'm currently really enjoying an app that I find quite beneficial. It's called Pliability. This app offers a well-produced and well-structured library of videos and exercises aimed at enhancing mobility. Personally, I feel great after engaging in some stretching exercises, and I truly believe it's a wonderful gift for my body.

All Things End

🔥 Friend of Wisdom

Thank you for joining me in this issue of The Nous. Feel free to reply and share your thoughts. I read all the comments!

How was today's newsletter?

Feedback helps us improve!

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Periodically, I will send a round-up of the best content for easy navigation. Rest assured, you'll still receive in-depth Stoic breakdown posts and the content you cherish.

Looking to support The Nous and educate others on Stoicism?

Simply forward this post to a friend.

Thank you for reading. As Stoics, we understand that the future is uncertain, so let's say, "I will be in touch soon, fate permitting!"


P.S. I recently ran a huge Stoic Handbook sale on a bundle of my courses. If you missed this and want to learn more, reply to this email and I can show you what’s included.