Recently, I have been enjoying reading the work of the wise Stoics. Stoicism is a school of philosophy that goes back to Ancient Greece and Rome, some two thousand years ago. There are great takeaways and lessons from their practices. First, Stoicism focuses on helping individuals to hone their virtues of character, for the purpose of acting more intentionally and becoming a better human being. Pretty cool I reckon! Second, wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation are important foundational principles. Additionally, what I love are two essential exercises, morning and evening preparation and review.
Both of these practices, which involve taking time to think intentionally and ponder questions, are key habits I encourage all my clients to cultivate. In addition, these practices have endured over the years because they help us face our challenges and the ups and downs of life. Moreover, reflection and writing, questioning, as the wise stoics did, helps us gain valuable insights into our lives. Finally, in the process we become stronger, wiser and perform better in all areas.
The wise stoics believe in preparing for the day and reflecting at the end of the day
I personally enjoy taking a few minutes at the start of my day to prepare, write a few notes and then, at the end of the day, review what transpired. Interestingly, the wise stoics had their own preferences. Marcus Aurelius, for example, preferred to reflect in the morning, to help himself prepare mentally for the day ahead. He would write notes on how to think, how to live, what to be grateful for, and then, embark on the day. Epictetus preferred to reflect on his day. Moreover, he was reflecting on whether his actions had been just, what he could have done better, what habits he could curb and how he might improve himself.
Importantly, to them, the purpose of thinking was to become a ‘philosopher king.’ The difference between a philosopher and a philosopher king is the latter thinks to create better actions. Additionally, Epictetus, one of the wise stoics, stressed the need to add practice and training. Additionally, both deliberate practice and training are key habits in the pursuit of sporting excellence. Athletes spend massive amounts of time focusing on practicing their sport. They select a clear goal, perhaps a specific skill for one part of their performance, focus fully on this and get on with their practice. Finally, reviewing and making adjustments before more practice. Focus, feedback, fix is what we call it in the sporting world.Epictetus was reflecting on whether his actions had been just, what he could have done better, what habits he could curb and how he might improve himself. Click To Tweet
The additional benefits of reflection in our lives
While these are great reasons for us to embrace the art of reflection, there are other additional benefits.
1. The art of reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause in our fast-paced busy lives. It allows the brain time to sort through numerous observations, experiences, consider multiple interpretations and create meaning.
2. Reflection inevitably entails writing, and in relation to the brain:
“The practice of writing can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information. It promotes the brain’s attentive focus, boosts long-term memory, and illuminates patterns.” Judy Willis
3. Reflection also improves productivity. Research by Giada Di Stefano and others, in call centres, demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting on lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. It seems the wise stoics have much to teach us.
4. Reflection improves happiness. In a study of UK commuters, a similar result was found to the above one. Those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t.
How we can sprinkle some of the wise stoics habits into our lives
I believe we can learn from these past wise stoics and philosophers. While there are many other lessons they teach us, embracing daily reflection habits, asking questions and developing a curious mindset are key skills that high performers must adopt. Moreover, these habits help us become stronger in who we are and what we want. Habits are the foundation of success, so the more helpful habits we create, the greater our success. Furthermore, when we fall back into autopilot, which occurs much of the day, we have better default habits to fall into.
If this doesn’t cut it, in a Gallup report in July 2022, key findings indicate we desperately need help to keep positive, productive and strong, and of course to manage the ups and downs of life.
“People are reporting more stress, sadness, physical pain, worry and anger than at any point in the history of Gallup’s tracking.” (Gallup report July 20, 2022)
Ultimately, as we fall back into our comfortable habits frequently, imagine your results when you naturally fall back into your high performance success habits effortlessly. Remember, it takes persistence, consistency, desire and discipline to create new habits that stick. Finally, when you add this powerful habit to the other key superpower habits you hold immensely powerful keys to become stronger, act better and become your very best. Moreover, creating habits is a combination of art and science, and requires consistency. To help you get started with the practices of the wise stoics, here are two resources.
Daily and weekly questions for reflection and acting like one of the wise stoics
1. A set of daily and weekly questions for reflection and review.
2. A weekly question to help you reflect, think, expand your mind, learn and grow.
If you would like to receive these resources, the same questions, I use, simply click here and add your name and email.
In the meantime, here are two of my favourite questions to help you identify poor behaviours and habits.
“What are you tolerating in your life and what is the cost of this?”“What would happen if you chose to no longer tolerate it?”
Mandy Napier is a Global High Performance Mindset Coach who is dedicated to supporting high achievers fulfil their potential and achieve extraordinary results professionally and personally. Transformations are the norm, and results guaranteed.
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