10 Reasons To Create Your Own “Encheiridion,” Your Own Handbook For Life


The Pythagoreans thought the number ten a perfect number. And, so might we. After all, the #Stoics were greatly influenced by Pythagorean thought and contemplative practice.

Which is why I’m compiling a list of 10 reasons to create your own “Encheiridion” or Handbook for Life.

I started with one big reason. I was travelling and faced an unpleasant situation. I found a quiet corner and tried to focus and meditate on the journaling I’d done that morning. I’d been reading Marcus Aurelius as a prompt to work through some “issues.” But, my mind was completely blank. I could no more remember what Marcus Aurelius had said to me that morning than I could remember what I’d had for breakfast last Monday morning.

Epictetus used to tell his students to write often and to have the Stoic principles “in the hand” or “ready to hand.” This is precisely what “Encheiridion” means and why today we use the term “handbook.”

Thus came the idea of compiling a portable, pocket-sized notebook with an organized collection of concise, strikingly-formed maxims, which I could hold close, have at hand, at times of need and which I could read and say over and over in my head as my own private mantras.

Create your own Handbook for Life, your own Encheiridion.

So, my reasons for creating and compiling a Handbook for Life, my own Encheiridion.

1. Create an organizational system

I’m creating an organizational system so that the Encheiridion is easy to use and easy for me to find the relevant principle I need at any given time. Thus, I need to extract keywords, key themes and then index them for quick access. What goes into the Encheiridion are the briefest summaries-maxims, mantras-of the teachings.

2. Rewrite and reexpress

I am actively engaged by rewriting and reexpressing the Stoic texts so that what finally goes into my Encheiridion is stunning and striking so much so that it is memorable and immediately useful.

3. Slow down and attend to writing

I must agree to slow down and write neatly, carefully transcribing the text I’ve drafted in another writing space. This practice helps me tune out of the day’s noise and tune into my own task at hand. This practice teaches me attention and patience and I’ve found beauty again in just sitting with my self, writing tools, and enjoying the feeling of a pen in my hand and the sound of the tool marking the page. It’s a full-body experience.

4. No need for originality

I don’t need to worry about being creative and original and fabulous. I just focus on the Stoic texts and study and meditate by rewriting, reexpressing, reframing them. I keep rereading Arrian’s “Greeting” to the Discourses in which he states he is not the “author” of the work, but merely compiling Epictetus’s teaching for his own later use. “It is a matter of small concern if I shall be thought incapable of “composing” a work.” Indeed.

5. A companion for daily contemplative practice

It’s the perfect accompaniment for a morning and evening contemplative practice. I add a new maxim in the morning, carry the Encheiridion in my handbag all day, and go over it at night. And, because I have rewritten the Stoic teachings in my own way, the rules really speak to me.

6. Practice writing craft

I practice my writing craft. The limitations of the maxim form, its brevity, challenge me to focus on the way I use the language. Hadot talks about “rhetorical amplification” and I get to experiment with word choice, but also punctuation, structure, repetition. This thrills me. Stoic practice is more than exercising the brain, it is a complete intellectual, emotional, and spiritual practice. My engagement with the composition of maxims or summaries engages my entire psyche.

7. Record of commitment

It will be a lovely record of my commitment to a thing.

8. Legacy gift

When I complete an Encheiridion, I can gift it to a loved one, place on a coffee table as a talking piece, or keep it and continue with another.

9. Psychic transformation

The process of rewriting my long-form, very messy, raw journal entries as shorter, precise, and rhetorically striking maxims mirrors my process of transforming my vision from my self to a more universal, natural vision of myself in the world as a collaborator with other human beings. This is priceless.

10. Makes Stoicism fun

Finding novel ways to engage with the Stoic texts makes the practice fun and this fires up all sorts of amazing things in my brain and heart and contributes to my overall sense of purpose, meaning, and being happy in the world. Plus, I get to share with the community of Stoic writers! Stoicism demands a social commitment beyond the page!

What do you think? What would your reasons be for creating and compiling your own Encheiridion?

Create Your Own Enchiridion or Handbook for Life

I’m running a Bootcamp which will guide participants through daily journaling prompts with the aim of compiling or starting to compile your very own Handbook for Life, your Encheiridion.

Apply to join here: MoM Journaling Bootcamp (BETA).

If you’d like to quietly dip in and out (no explicit commitment, no commitment to providing feedback) and irregularly connect with others join the Stoic Writing Scene Facebook group!

Bootcamp will run from September 9 to the Stoicon weekend, 6 October.

More news from the MoM Bootcamp

  1. Announcement
  2. Rumination
  3. Spiritual Exercises
  4. Commitment
  5. Perspective
  6. Tools
  7. Reasons