Simple Stoic Advice

Be ruthless with yourself

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Seneca and his moral letters, letter 26 from Letters on Ethics:


“I scrutinize myself as if the time of trial were drawing near, as if that day which is to pass judgment on all my years were at hand.”


Seneca was famous for preaching about how little time we all have, and how of the time we do have, we waste much of it on pointless pursuits (See On the Shortness of Life).

“We have to be more careful in preserving what will cease at an unknown point.”

He is also famous for the practicing and preaching about the need for daily reflection on the lives we live.

In his essay On Anger, Seneca writes:

“When the daylight has faded from view, and my wife, who knows well this custom of mine, keeps quiet, I become an inspector and reexamine the course of my day, my deeds and words; I hide nothing from myself. I omit nothing. There’s no reason my mistakes should give me cause to fear, as long as I can say: “See that you don’t do that any more, but this time I forgive you… next time consider not the truth of what you say but whether the one you say it to can endure hearing the truth; good folk are glad to be chastised, but the worst sort find their preceptor very grating.”

It is through the constant reflection that we are able to grow. If we continue moving as fast as we can, jumping from task to task, subject to subject, we never provide ourselves the time to do that deep work that is required to learn and grow. We need time between our days to decompress, and part of that should be spent reflecting upon our day: what went right, what went wrong, what could I have done differently, what will tomorrow hold?

We also must learn to be ruthless with judging ourselves. This is often hard as people either overjudge themselves and place blame entirely on themselves or they hold blind spots and do not see their flaws. Having an accountability partner or mentor helps with both of these scenarios.

But ultimately, growth comes from being able to sit and reflect upon our days and how we can better improve ourselves, our lives, and the things we want to achieve.

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