How to read, speak, and act like a stoic? This might sound like a straightforward question and it kind of is. The simple answer could be taken from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations:
“To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 10.16
And yet, I choose to elaborate on how to read, speak, and act like a stoic. But we should keep this quote by Marcus Aurelius in the back of our heads as we continue. How you act is what it all boils down to and where your true nature is on display. Words are a good start because they can shape the mind, but the mind needs to be receptive and perform those actions.
Are there different ways to read, speak, and act like a stoic? Where should our main effort be? What is the importance of reading and speaking like a stoic? In this post, I wish to look into these questions and hold myself in the spotlight to examine my actions. There are times when I ask myself this question and when others question my intentions. To be a good stoic, it is important to keep reflecting on your behavior. To keep yourself in check to see if you are living virtuously. Let’s find out how good of a stoic I am and maybe it will help you reflect on yourself as well.
How to be a good Stoic
From the introduction of this blog, you can read the reason why I started writing these reflections. This is my handbook for being a good stoic and a good person. What I write about are aspects of my life with which I struggle. But the discovery of Stoicism has helped me deal with them better and learn to live a more peaceful and consistent life. Let me also be clear that I am far from being where I think I should be. This is a life-long learning process.
Everyone has a different story of how they started with Stoicism or any other philosophy for that matter. As a reminder, Stoicism speaks to me, that doesn’t necessarily need to hold true for you. But I am a big believer that we should all discover and develop our own philosophy of life. This post can still be applied to your philosophy, as it will examine what it takes to act according to your philosophy. Most of us start by reading specific books or watching videos. Then we find like-minded people to discuss and test our ideas. As we continue our journey, we will learn what appeals to us and how we can be the best person or in my case, how we can be a good stoic.
How to read like a stoic
If you are like me, most likely you have been introduced to stoicism by a text or had books recommended to you. Being a good stoic involves more than only reading books. Although it is important to learn what Stoicism is all about. We need to learn the theory to be able to apply it. The beauty of some of the major works in stoicism is that they are rather short. The entries in the Meditations that Marcus Aurelius made are sometimes only one sentence. See the example at the beginning. If we look at the Enchiridion, or handbook by Epictetus, we also see short passages. The shortness helps us remember the words and their message better. For when we find ourselves in situations in which we should apply these teachings, we can better recall and act upon them.
While reading is an important part of becoming a good stoic, it is not impossible without it. We can spend hours dissecting the texts and make sure we have the perfect translation. Or we can read it with our full attention and then use it in our lives. There are so many words spoken and written, while our actions are the ones that make an imprint on the universe.
The message connects
My love for reading books only started a few years ago, but from that moment it has become a big part of my life. You can check out my post on reading for more background. One aspect of reading that I struggle with is remembering what I’ve read. Marcus Aurelius shares one of his lessons by Rusticus with us:
“To read attentively – not to be satisfied with ‘just getting the gist of it.’”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 1.7
And I try my hardest to follow his advice. My memory often fails me and I can’t recall what I read even minutes later. That’s why I’m not the fastest reader. What I end up with is the idea. But they stick and those ideas have made drastic changes to my life. It is not that I need to remember every word or quote, as long as the message is received. When I read the passages, they connect to something inside of me. My mind absorbs it. That’s why the repetitive nature of many of the surviving texts is helpful for someone like me.
How to speak like a stoic
After having read all these books and texts, then it is up to us to learn how to apply them. And when asked, share them and explain them to the people around us. Can one be a good stoic by learning them verbatim? Will that impress people when they hear us speak? But are they our words? Or are we Seneca’s, Marcus’, or Epictetus’ puppets? Words can be impressive when they are heard for the first time. Give your words weight by making sure they are yours and that they are in accordance with nature and virtue. It is important that you learn how to speak properly, but it is not impossible to be a good Stoic if you are not well-spoken.
One thing you shouldn’t ask me is to produce quotes. They will come out butchered because I simply can’t remember them word for word. I try, but it’s not something I’m good at. It also takes me time to come up with the correct arguments or phrases, if I need to explain my ideas. As an introvert, I find it difficult to speak a lot and for a long time. That’s why writing is such an outcome for me. It’s impressive to see people be able to come up with quotes like it’s nothing. And the more you repeat phrases, the easier they come out. But are you then present in the moment, or flying on auto-pilot? Then the question arises again if that is how to be a good stoic.
How to act like a stoic
How can we then be a good stoic? Remember the quote by Marcus at the top of the page? Where he said to just be a good one. He was referring to being a good person. How can we be one? For that, we need to display the right actions and thoughts. Our opinions need to be in line with what is good and virtuous. We can read and talk about it all we want, but what we do echoes in eternity.
Being a good stoic depends on you. No one will give you a ribbon for that and you shouldn’t want one. This is something you need to do for yourself. This is your life and it is yours to live. Read as much as you can, if that’s what you feel you need to do. Speak to as many people who will listen to you. But keep in mind that it is you who needs to act like a stoic. To live a life of virtue and peace can only be accomplished by you. Don’t read because that’s what you think you should do. Read because it adds something to you. And remember to do these things in moderation. It’s easy to say you’re a good stoic, but it’s more difficult to be one. Especially if there aren’t any books to read or an audience to listen to you.
Remember what sort of action it is
Am I a good stoic? As I said, I think I’m on my way, but there is a lot I still need to work on. But I can tell that it has made a big impact on my life. This blog shows you what parts of my life have been impacted and where I can still use more practice. Every day and in all of my actions I try to be the best version of myself. Sometimes that’s easier than others. And I often miss the mark. But those moments can teach me how to do better. I’m not perfect, but I’d like to set the bar high. And besides that, to live my best life. Because it’s the only one I’ve got.
After reading this, I hope this has helped you reflect on your journey and where you think you are. Are you heading in the right direction? What areas do you feel you need to work on? Think about what causes you anxiety or worries you. Where do you find yourself living in excess? This post is meant to make you ask those questions that I ask myself daily. It is up to you to make the best of it. Take that responsibility and live it every moment you can. Remember to take each action for what it is. If you are reading, then read. When speaking, speak. And when acting, act. Do all of these how they are meant to be done.
“When you are about to undertake some action, remind yourself what sort of action it is.”Epictetus, the Handbook, 4
24 thoughts on “How to Act Like a Stoic: A Self-Reflection”
I sometimes doubt if I’m going in the right direction. So, this is very helpful. I will need to improve. Thank you for sharing these tips!
Thank you, Fransic. I think we all have those doubts sometimes. Glad to hear you find this helpful.
This was a really interesting piece. I found the advice comfortingly simple, but really useful. It’s made me feel like I’m not that far off heading in the right direction after all!
Thanks for sharing.
Wonderful comment to read, Graham. It’s lovely to see that you found this comforting and useful. Awesome to read that you see yourself heading in the right direction.
I enjoyed looking through this post! Reading books from the Stoics or about Stoicism has helped add many useful tools to my belt. And love the quotes throughout the post!
Thank you, Drew, for reading my post and liking the quotes I’ve used. Stoicism does provide us with many helpful tools.
I love how intentional this mindset is, and how it encourages us to really think about the ways we read, write, think, speak, and act in a way that inevitably helps us communicate and learn more clearly. <3
Thank you for your insightful comment. Stoicism does have a very intentional approach and helps us be more pragmatic about all the things we deal with.
This whole post is so interesting – and so well written! I completely understand what you said about reading things and not taking any of the information in, even minutes later. It can be so frustrating! Very interesting post.
Thank you for your kind words, Katherine. These kind of comments give me a boost to keep writing and sharing my content. It’s nice to see that you can relate with what I wrote. Thank you.
A very interesting post! From this, I’ve determined I’m heading in the right direction. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Jodie, for your lovely comment. I’m happy to see that you’re heading in the right direction.
Thank you Benny! A great post. After reading like a stoic, these are my take home reflections 😉 To read attentively and with awareness. Not simply to adopt what you are reading as your own but let it assimilate with your current ideas to further your understandings and thought processes. Making sure that our words resonate with our inner selves and are spoken with purpose. Being conscious of our daily actions and how they are impacting not only ourselves, but others around us. Pausing and taking stock, asking ourselves whether this is the right path, should we find it is not, having the strength to change direction.
Those are such insightful and wonderful words, Viv. It’s incredible to see that you took all of this out of it and thank you for sharing your views. It does take strength to change direction if we sense we need to. But then we should do so.
This was very interesting and informative to read! Thanks so much for sharing, I learned a lot about how to act like a stoic!
Thank you for your kind words. I’m happy to see that you found my post interesting and informative.
Sometimes not doing is the right action. I’ve said no to things lately, where the temptation has been that the request was for action and therefore must have been the “right” thing.
You’re comment rings so true, thank you for that. Sometimes not doing an action is precisely what needs to be done. Thank you for sharing that.
You’re right about not being perfect, because no one is. But you also shouldn’t set your bar too high, or you’ll hamper your progress by feeling like you’re a failure for not living up to the high bar you set
Thank you for your comments. I agree with you to a certain extend. If you set the bar high and do your best to reach that goal, then even if you don’t reach it you can feel good that you tried your best. It might seem like a failure, but at least you’ve tried and can’t regret not doing it.
This is such a thoughtful post.
It’s good to keep re-evaluating your beliefs and ask yourself these important questions.
I believe we are all a work in progress.
We are all a work in progress, I completely agree with you. Thank you for your kind words, I’m happy you liked my post.
Sage advice. We do tend to talk more than we act, or forget to be the person we want to be when faced with a challenging situation. This comes out when feeling stressed, and we forget to not react with anger or frustration. However, we shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves as that leads to further negative reaction. The first step is awareness, and with that comes a better understanding of ourselves. We don’t learn everything in life in one go, it is done through practice and trial and error. Love your posts Benny, I learn and grow with each one. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind words, Zac. I’m very happy to read that you like my posts and learn and grow from them. You are right in pointing out that the first step is awareness and understanding ourselves. Loved reading your take on this.