If you really want to be successful in life, adopt these 8 Stoic habits

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If you really want to be successful in life, adopt these 8 Stoic habits

In the whirlwind of our day-to-day lives, where success is often painted as a picture-perfect scene we’re all scrambling to step into, it’s easy to lose track of what’s genuinely important.

That’s where Stoicism’s ancient yet surprisingly down-to-earth wisdom comes in.

Imagine Stoicism not as a dusty old philosophy book on the top shelf but more like that no-nonsense friend who tells you like it is, helping you cut through the clutter.

If you’re fed up with chasing fleeting successes and ready to get real about what it means to live a good life, then these  Stoic habits might just be the game-changer you need.

This isn’t about turning your life upside down overnight. It’s about making small, deliberate changes that steer you toward becoming not just successful by the world’s standards but deeply satisfied by your own.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in?


1. Understand what is within your control

Have you ever found yourself stressing over something completely out of your hands?

It’s a common experience, but Stoicism offers a powerful antidote: focusing on what you can control and letting go of what you can’t.

This is a huge part of the philosophy, with all of the famous Stoics preaching it, but perhaps former Roman Emporer (and Stoic) Marcus Aurelius put it best when he wrote, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

This habit encourages us to differentiate between our actions, thoughts, and emotions (which are within our control) and external events (which are not).

By investing our energy only in the areas we can influence, we not only become more effective in our pursuits but also significantly reduce our day-to-day stress. 

2. Embrace challenges as opportunities

If you’re anything like I used to be, your gut reaction might be to view challenges as obstacles blocking your path to success.

However, Stoicism teaches us to turn this perspective on its head. Every challenge, no matter how daunting, is an opportunity for growth, learning, and self-improvement. As the Stoic philosopher Seneca put it, “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

Let me share a personal example. A few years ago, I was working on a project that was crucial for my career advancement. Halfway through, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Deadlines were missed, the team was in disarray, and my stress levels were through the roof. Initially, I saw this as a career-ending catastrophe.

But then, I remembered the Stoic principle of viewing obstacles as opportunities. I took a step back and analyzed the situation: What could this teach me? How could I grow from this?

This mindset shift transformed my approach. Instead of panicking, I focused on what I could control—my reaction and my actions moving forward. I began to see the situation as a test of my leadership and problem-solving skills.

By embracing the challenge, I not only salvaged the project but also learned valuable lessons in resilience and adaptability that have served me well ever since.

3. Practice gratitude

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ….”

This profound statement by the former Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius captures the essence of what Stoicism and many modern psychologists tout as very important: gratitude.

By focusing on what we have rather than obsessing over what we lack, we cultivate a mindset that celebrates abundance over scarcity, leading to greater contentment and joy in our daily lives.

Gratitude isn’t just about saying ‘thank you’ for the good things. It’s also about appreciating the small victories, the lessons learned from failures, and even the very challenge of living. It’s about seeing the value in every experience and every moment, regardless of how insignificant or difficult they may seem.

One famous figure who exemplified this practice was Marcus Aurelius. Despite his immense power and wealth, he consistently practiced gratitude for the simple things in life. His writings, especially in “Meditations,” are filled with reminders to himself to appreciate the present and find joy in the mundane.

Why not at least give it a shot? Incorporating gratitude into your daily routine can be as simple as keeping a gratitude journal where you jot down three things you’re thankful for each day.

This practice can shift your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that already exists within it. And over time, this shift in perspective can lead to a more contented, resilient, and successful life.

4. Live in the present

Picture this: You’re walking through a beautiful park, but instead of soaking in the vibrant colors of the flowers, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, or listening to the laughter of children playing, your mind is miles away, tangled in worries about tomorrow’s meeting or replaying a conversation from yesterday.

This disconnect from the present moment is a common struggle, but it’s also one that Stoicism addresses head-on.

Stoicism teaches us the value of living in the now, emphasizing that the present is all we truly have control over. As put by Stoic philosopher Seneca, “Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.”

Past mistakes and future anxieties are outside our sphere of influence, and dwelling on them only diminishes our ability to enjoy and make the most of the current moment. 

The practice of mindfulness—paying full attention to the present moment without judgment—is a powerful tool for cultivating this Stoic habit. It’s about fully engaging with whatever you’re doing, whether it’s eating, walking, or having a conversation. By doing so, you not only enrich your experiences but also gain clarity and peace of mind.

So next time you find your mind drifting to past regrets or future worries, remember to, as Marcus Aurelius stated, “Confine yourself to the present”. 

Take a deep breath, look around, and immerse yourself in the now. Living in the present isn’t just about enjoying life more—it’s about creating a foundation for a more focused, productive, and successful life.

5. Develop self-discipline

Stoicism strongly emphasizes self-discipline as a path to freedom. As Epictetus said, “No man is free who is not master of himself.”

The philosophy teaches that by controlling our desires and impulses, we gain control over our happiness and peace of mind. It’s not about denying ourselves pleasure but about not being enslaved by our desires.

This Stoic habit of developing self-discipline enables us to focus on what truly matters, make rational decisions, and pursue our goals steadfastly.

An excellent method to cultivate this discipline is by setting small, daily challenges for yourself. These could range from waking up at a specific time each morning, limiting screen time, practicing mindful eating, or dedicating time to a personal project.

Each time you successfully meet these challenges, you reinforce your ability to commit to your goals and strengthen your willpower.

6. Seek wisdom constantly

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who had dedicated years to studying various philosophies and spiritual practices. What struck me most wasn’t just the breadth of his knowledge but his humble approach to learning.

Despite his extensive study, he considered himself a perpetual student, always open to new insights and understanding. This mindset profoundly impacted me, highlighting that the pursuit of wisdom is an endless journey, enriching our lives in immeasurable ways.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he was epitomizing a Stoic habit. 

Stoicism teaches that wisdom is a continuous process of questioning, learning, and adapting, which enables us to grow and evolve both personally and professionally. Seneca wrote, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live” while Epictetus preached “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

To adopt this Stoic habit, start by cultivating curiosity in your day-to-day life.

Engage with new ideas, challenge your assumptions, and seek out conversations with people who offer diverse perspectives. Embrace the mindset of a lifelong learner by reading widely, not just in fields you’re familiar with but also those outside your comfort zone.

Moreover, reflect on your experiences. Wisdom often comes from introspection and learning from both successes and failures. By analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve, you turn everyday experiences into valuable lessons.

7. Simplify your life

In a world constantly bombarding us with messages to want more, do more, and be more, the Stoic practice of simplifying your life can be revolutionary.

I remember a turning point in my own journey towards simplicity. It came during a particularly hectic year when my pursuit of success had filled my calendar to the brim, leaving me feeling frazzled and disconnected from what truly mattered.

It was then that I stumbled upon a quote from Marcus Aurelius: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” This prompted me to re-evaluate my priorities and strip away the unnecessary, focusing instead on what genuinely enriched my life.

Simplifying your life à la Stoicism isn’t about living with the bare minimum or denying yourself pleasure. It’s about discerning what’s truly essential and finding joy and satisfaction in that. This habit encourages us to question our desires and possessions, asking ourselves whether they add real value or merely clutter our lives with distractions.

To start simplifying your life, take inventory of your commitments, possessions, and even relationships. Identify which of these bring you genuine joy, fulfillment, and growth, and which ones serve as mere distractions from your core values and goals. Remember, it’s not about having less for the sake of it but about making room for more of what truly matters.

Next, practice saying no. In our eagerness to seize opportunities, we often stretch ourselves too thin. By becoming more selective in our engagements, we not only honor our time and energy but also engage more fully with the commitments we choose to keep.

Lastly, embrace minimalism in your physical surroundings. A cluttered space often reflects a cluttered mind. By organizing and reducing the excess in our environments, we can foster a sense of tranquility and clarity that supports our Stoic journey.

Adopting a simpler way of life allows us to focus on our personal growth, relationships, and the pursuit of contentment. It’s a reminder that often, less truly is more.

8. Remember You Will Die

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” This profound insight from Marcus Aurelius perfectly encapsulates the Stoic approach to mortality and its role in living a fulfilling life.

Acknowledging our mortality can seem daunting, but for the Stoics, it was a source of clarity and purpose. This practice, known as memento mori (Latin for “remember you will die”), isn’t about fearing death; it’s about using the awareness of our finite existence to live more intentionally and meaningfully.

Imagine you’re on a tight deadline at work. The pressure mounts and distractions seem to multiply.

Now, think about how your approach might change if you knew this was your last day on earth. Would you waste time on trivial tasks, or would you focus on what truly matters?

This is the essence of memento mori—bringing a heightened sense of urgency and purpose to our actions.

Practicing this can significantly alter our perspective on life’s challenges and opportunities. It encourages us to:

  • Prioritize Meaningful Actions: Focus on what aligns with your core values and long-term goals. Let go of activities and commitments that don’t contribute to your overall well-being.
  • Cultivate Gratitude: Recognize the fleeting nature of life and appreciate the present moment. This can enhance your relationships, work, and daily experiences.
  • Overcome Fear: By accepting the inevitability of death, you can reduce the fear of failure and judgment. This liberates you to take risks and pursue your passions without the paralyzing fear of what others might think.

Incorporating memento mori into your daily routine doesn’t require dramatic changes. It can be as simple as a morning reflection or journaling about what you would do differently if today were your last day. Over time, this practice can foster a deeper appreciation for life and a more profound sense of purpose. Surely, a life of purpose and appreciation is a life of success?  

The Bottom Line

Whether it’s focusing on what’s within your control or simplifying your life, each habit offers a pathway to a more resilient, focused, and fulfilled self.

We’d love to hear about your journey with Stoicism or any thoughts you have on these habits. Have you tried incorporating any of these practices into your daily life? What challenges and successes have you encountered?

Share your experiences in the comments. Your story could be the inspiration someone else needs to embark on their own path of self-improvement.