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Lessons from Our Predecessors

Lessons from Our Predecessors

Stoicism: 5 Lessons From Antiquity to improve Self-Discipline

Stoicism is a school of philosophy that began existing in ancient Greece. It teaches to see life from the angle, that is full of power, high in morality and self-control.

The four virtues of stoicism are wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. Temperance is subdivided into self-control, discipline and modesty. 

In this article, I would like to focus on one particular part of this philosophy, that is self-discipline.

Discipline is the fundamental action, mindset, and philosophy which keeps one in a routine and making progress towards whatever one is pursuing.

From antiquity, we have got lessons that allow us to cultivate strong inner willpower if you continuously follow them.




Lesson 1


“Without a ruler to do it against, you can’t make crooked straight.” 

Through this saying Seneca is trying to show, how important it is, to have inspiring people around us. More popular nowadays saying with the same meaning is:

“Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are”

Meaning here is the same: The people you choose to be around shape your personality. They can make you better, help to go through tough times full of difficulties or can cool down your intentions and criticize your actions, that eventually leads you to mediocrity.

"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future"
    Dan Pena

It is very hard to achieve big goals alone. When facing difficulties we need support and advice of the wise people. So please find one at school, club or maybe at church, become a member of it and try to become similar to somebody, who inspires you.


Lesson 2

Your reality is made by your opinions

We shape our perception of the world without thoughts.
Change your way of thinking. Regain control over your thoughts and the questions you are asking and as a result, you will see changes in your behavior.
Firstly, we have to relearn how to think
What makes you sure that things are as they are only because you read or heard about it? Of course, it is impossible to test yourself everything you learn about, but the main point is that You have to start thinking with your own head. Test by yourself things you read about, learn more and try more. Don't set limits because somebody said so - they aren't your limits.

Lesson 3

Your distractions are your own doings.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” 
Marcus Aurelius

Try to separate situations in two groups: things that you can control and things that are out of your control. If you embrace what is out of your control and accept it, you will experience tranquillity.       
You should always focus on the things within your control and have a contempt for the things that are not in your control.

 You have power over your mind, but not over events. Realize it, to find inner strength.


Lesson 4


Writing down your thoughts to find relief and take a closer look at your thoughts, memories, and feelings that you had through the day. Also, it is a great way to have a closer look to yourself, find your weak spots and work with them.

Think about:

  • What did I do well?
  • What mistakes I made today and how can I avoid them in the future?
  • Have I got closer to my goals?

One of the most famous stoic journals is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Lesson 5

Negative visualization

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”
                                                                                      Marcus Aurelius

Negative visualization helps you to mentally prepare for confrontations or other difficulties that you can face. Try to picture the worst scenario that could happen and then remind yourself that even the worst is survivable. The goal is to see that we can handle any situation that life can bring.
This practice can help you realize that things, that you are afraid of are not as bad as you made them look to be.

“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation,” he wrote to a friend. “...nor do all things turn out for him as he wished but as he reckoned — and above all he reckoned that something could block his plans.”
                                                                                                                Seneca in Letters to Lucilius

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