In this article, you will learn how to begin each day as a modern Stoic, infusing your psyche with powerful principles to maximize your productivity and peace of mind.
You may know by now, one of the most famous Stoic techniques is what’s called “premeditation of adversity.”
Wiki Definition of Premeditation of Adversity
Negative visualization or futurorum malorum præmeditatio (Latin, literally, pre-studying bad future) is a method of meditative praxis or askēsis by visualization of the worst-case scenario(s). The method originated with the Cyreanic philosophers and was later adopted by Stoic philosophers. The technique was made popular with publications of Seneca the Younger's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium. It is thought to have been one of the common forms of Stoic spiritual exercises.
Unlike the general focus of creative visualization of inducing an imaginary positive psychological and physiologic response, negative visualization focuses on training the practitioner on the negative outcomes of realistic life scenarios to desensitize or create psychological fitness in preparation for real-life losses and also to induce feelings of gratitude towards the real things or actual status that the practitioner has. The severeness of negative visualization range from as mild as thinking of a minor inconvenience, e.g. having to abandon a minor pleasure, to as severe as total immersion in an imagined scenario in which the worst fear(s) of the practitioner has (have) really occurred, e.g. the loss of resources, status or life.
Before going about their day, the Stoics would imagine in advance the obstacles that might come up for three reasons:
- To not be caught by surprise
- To rehearse acting wisely in the face of hardship
- To prepare ahead of time to negate obstacles
A great example of this technique can be found in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they cannot tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.
There is great value in beginning each day with some preparatory steps.
Each morning when I wake up, I begin by opening my notetaking app and answering a set of prompts in a short journaling exercise. I call this the…
The Ultimate Stoic Morning Journal
(Great title, right?)
I chose these questions to include Stoic principles as well as some prompts covering positive psychology and productivity.
I’ve also added a quote from Epictetus, based on his suggestion for how Stoics should plan their day.
Here are the questions I answer each day:
🛌 What did I dream about?
😴 What time did I wake? How was my sleep?
Questions to contemplate every day that keep you focused on the things that matter.
🛡 Today is going to come with lots of challenges, some expected and some unexpected. What are some obstacles that could come up, and how will you handle them?
🙏🏻 We focus a lot on our misery, but little on how much suffering we have escaped. What good things might you take for granted today, and how could things be worse?
💌 Stoic Gratitude
A gratitude practice is one of the most important habits you can cultivate.
🚘 What are some material objects you are thankful that you have?
👨 Who are some people you are thankful are in your life?
😢 What are some things about your life that others could envy?
☕️ What are some small things that have happened lately that made you appreciative?
After I’ve filled out the questions, I mark this task as “complete” in my Streaks app.
The Stoic Morning Meditation
After I complete my morning check-in (usually in bed), I then sit up and spend a few minutes practicing the same technique Marcus Aurelius used to start his day.
In this meditation, I spend time imagining how I will respond to hardship and setbacks so that nothing can catch me off-guard.
Below I've recorded a guided version of the meditation I do. The power of Stoic exercises like this, can't be understated. Here are some things people have said about the Stoic morning journal exercise:
Listen to this meditation here:
The Stoic Mourning Routine Final Thoughts
This whole routine takes 10-20 minutes and is an insanely productive use of time.
Imagine an A/B test:
One version of you did this every day for a year, and the other version spent that 20 minutes scrolling Facebook.
What would be the result of that test?