Today we’re going to be exploring 10 behaviors the ancient Stoics deliberately avoided in their efforts to live a life of peace, purpose, and fulfillment and build a resilient mental calm that’s immune to external influence.

I’ll also be providing you with valuable insights into the mindset and practices of some of history’s most respected thinkers, like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. By understanding the actions and attitudes that Stoics avoid, you can gain a deeper appreciation for their wisdom and learn how to apply their principles in your own life.

Stoicism teaches us to focus on the things we can control and accept the things we cannot, ultimately guiding us toward a life of virtue, tranquillity, and resilience. The Stoic approach to life emphasizes self-mastery, emotional intelligence, and the pursuit of wisdom, all of which can have a profound impact on our personal growth and well-being.

As you read through this list of 10 things Stoics don’t do, take a moment to reflect on your own habits, behaviors, and thought patterns. Consider how adopting a Stoic perspective might empower you to navigate life’s challenges with grace, poise, and inner strength. Whether you’re new to Stoicism or a seasoned practitioner, these timeless lessons have the potential to enhance your life and bring you closer to the person you aspire to be.

excessive pleasure:

One of the fundamental virtues that form the foundation of Stoic belief is the ability to exercise temperance or discipline. This principle encourages us to maintain a sense of balance in our lives, helping us to navigate the complexities of our emotions and the world around us with wisdom and clarity.

The ancient Stoics advocated the avoidance of excessive pleasure because they saw it as a major source of emotional turmoil and a hindrance to our ability to act with reason and make wise decisions. When we are ruled by our desire for pleasure, our actions become dictated by external circumstances rather than our own thoughtful choices.

Excessive pleasure can lead to a loss of control, promoting destructive and impulsive behavior. It can undermine long-term thinking in favor of short-term gratification, pushing us further away from a life of virtue and wisdom. This unbalanced pursuit of pleasure ultimately takes us further from the person we truly aspire to be.

When our emotions and actions are dictated by desire, there is a very real risk that our behaviors will conflict with our own principles and values. This can lead to a gradual erosion of our character, as we prioritize temporary satisfaction over the long-term cultivation of virtue.

By avoiding excessive pleasure and embracing the virtue of temperance, we can develop the ability to deliberately decide our actions and align ourselves with our values. This practice of self-control allows us to gradually cultivate an inner calm and stability, which serves as a foundation for personal growth and a life of virtue.

In this way, the Stoic practice of temperance enables us to nurture a sense of balance in our lives, helping us to navigate the complexities of our emotions and the world around us with wisdom and clarity. By embracing this Stoic principle, we can work towards a more harmonious and fulfilling life, grounded in our own values and virtues.

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Rising To anger:

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

– Epictetus

In a similar way to pleasure, when anger is allowed to hijack our behavior and our thoughts, we hand control of our actions over to external events happening in the world around us or to people around us whose actions we disagree with. As Epictetus puts it, we allow others to become our master.

Imagine rising to anger every time a person was rude, ungrateful, ignorant, impatient, selfish, or disloyal. This anger will express itself in your behavior, and when your behavior is controlled by something other than you, there is a very real risk that it will not align with the person you want to be.

So, in the same way that the pleasure seeker’s behaviors are pushed and pulled by desire, the angry person is pushed and pulled by forces equally outside their control. Stoicism offers a path to avoid this trap by fostering emotional mastery and mindful reactions in response to challenging situations.

To adopt a Stoic approach to anger, consider the following steps:

  1. Recognize the triggers: Identify the situations and people that tend to provoke anger in you. By becoming aware of these triggers, you can prepare yourself to respond more mindfully when they arise.

  2. Pause and reflect: When you start to feel anger bubbling up, take a moment to pause and reflect on the situation. Remind yourself that your reaction is within your control, even if the external circumstances are not.

  3. Reevaluate your judgments: Often, our anger is fuelled by the judgments we make about others or situations. By re-evaluating these judgments from a Stoic perspective, we can avoid giving in to emotional impulses and instead respond with wisdom and restraint.

  4. Practice empathy: Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. By practicing empathy, we can better understand their actions and motivations, which can help diffuse our anger and lead to more compassionate responses.

  5. Choose a measured response: Rather than reacting impulsively out of anger, make a conscious and deliberate choice on how to behave and address the situation at hand, in alignment with your values and the person you want to be.

When we avoid descending into anger, we keep our hold on our actions, maintain our peace of mind, and make wiser decisions in line with our values. By following the Stoic path, we can develop emotional mastery, foster stronger relationships, and become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

On anger, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus says:

“Keep in mind that it isn’t the one who has it in for you and takes a swipe that harms you, but rather the harm comes from your own belief about the abuse. So when someone arouses your anger, know that it’s really your own opinion fueling it. Instead, make it your first response not to be carried away by such impressions, for with time and distance, self-mastery is more easily achieved.”

Feel envy:

A strong feeling like envy can dominate our thoughts and make us unhappy. When we focus on other people’s accomplishments or belongings while feeling inadequate or unsatisfied with our own life, it results in comparisons between us and them. Instead of giving in to the destructive effects of envy, the Stoic philosophy offers us an alternative strategy that urges us to cultivate contentment and applaud the accomplishments of others.

Stoicism encourages us to accept those aspects of life that are outside of our control and to concentrate on the things we can control, such as our thoughts, deeds, and emotions. When we apply this theory to the experience of envy, we can start to see that our negative emotions have more to do with ourselves than with the situations that seem to have triggered them.

The pursuit of virtue and wisdom is one of the core pillars of Stoicism. Rather of racing after worldly goods or social position, stoic thinkers like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius thought that our ultimate objective should be to improve our character and live in line with our beliefs. We can shift our attention from jealousy to personal development and self-improvement by concentrating on the cultivation of inner traits.

To free ourselves from the grip of envy, consider the following Stoic practices:

  1. Recognize the fleeting nature of external success: Stoics understood that material wealth, fame, and power are transient and subject to the whims of fortune. By acknowledging the impermanent nature of these external trappings, we can loosen their hold on our emotions and find greater fulfillment in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue.

  2. Practice gratitude: Gratitude is a powerful antidote to envy. By regularly reflecting on the blessings and opportunities we have in our own lives, we can cultivate a sense of contentment and appreciation for our unique circumstances. This shift in perspective can help to neutralize feelings of envy and foster a more positive outlook.

  3. Focus on self-improvement: Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we can channel our energy into becoming the best version of ourselves. Stoicism emphasizes the importance of personal growth and self-mastery, encouraging us to strive for excellence in our thoughts, actions, and relationships. By focusing on our own progress, we can reduce the temptation to envy the achievements of others.

  4. Embrace the success of others: Rather than feeling threatened or diminished by the accomplishments of others, Stoics encourage us to celebrate their success and learn from their example. By adopting an attitude of goodwill and support, we can transform envy into admiration and inspiration, fostering a more harmonious and collaborative mindset.

  5. Reflect on the potential downsides of success: It’s important to remember that the people we envy may also face challenges and difficulties that we are not aware of. Success often comes with its own set of struggles, and by considering the potential drawbacks, we can gain a more balanced perspective on the lives of others.

We can begin to reduce the negative effects of envy and embrace a more meaningful, contented life by implementing these Stoic principles into our daily lives. We have the ability to acquire the inner fortitude and resilience required to face life’s problems with grace and poise by focusing our attention on the pursuit of wisdom, virtue, and personal progress. At the same time, we can celebrate others’ successes while working to improve ourselves, thereby dissolving the destructive nature that envy can have on our peace of mind.

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If you can, correct the person who is responsible. If you cannot, repair the damage. If you can do neither, why blame others? It is pointless

– Marcus Aurelius

The Stoic philosophy offers us a unique perspective on the concept of blame, urging us to focus on our own thoughts and actions rather than seeking to attribute responsibility to others. By adopting this Stoic mindset, we can approach life’s challenges with greater resilience, compassion, and inner strength.

There are several reasons why Stoicism discourages blame and finger-pointing:

Focus on personal responsibility: Stoics believed that we should concentrate on our own thoughts and actions rather than those of others. By shifting our attention away from blame and towards personal responsibility, we can effectively address the situation at hand, regardless of whether it was caused by someone else. In this way, we can actively work towards a resolution rather than getting caught up in the cycle of blame.

  1. Acknowledge the good intentions of others: Stoic philosophy teaches us that most people are generally well-intentioned, doing the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have. When someone makes a mistake or behaves in a destructive way, it is often due to their lack of understanding or inability to determine right from wrong, rather than malicious intent. By recognizing this, we can approach others with empathy and compassion, seeking to understand their perspective rather than assigning blame.

  2. Cultivate emotional resilience: Blaming others can be an easy way to deflect responsibility and avoid confronting our own shortcomings. However, this approach can undermine our emotional resilience, as we become more reactive to the actions of others and less capable of managing our own emotions. Stoicism encourages us to develop inner strength and equanimity, allowing us to maintain our peace of mind even in the face of adversity.

  3. Encourage growth and learning: When we focus on blame, we may inadvertently close ourselves off to valuable learning opportunities. By adopting a Stoic approach and examining what we can do to improve the situation, we can grow and evolve, both as individuals and as a society. In this way, we can transform challenges into opportunities for personal and collective growth.

  4. Foster harmonious relationships: Blame can be toxic to relationships, creating division and resentment. In contrast, the Stoic approach encourages us to approach others with understanding and compassion, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation. By refraining from blame, we can cultivate healthier, more harmonious relationships with those around us.

On this subject, Marcus Aurelius wrote the following:

“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 can’t 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.” — Marcus Aurelius

So when sh*t hits the fan, resist the urge to point fingers and assign blame. Instead, embrace the Stoic perspective by focusing on what you can do to improve the situation and maintain your peace of mind. In doing so, you’ll not only be better equipped to navigate life’s challenges, but you’ll also cultivate stronger, more supportive relationships with those around you.

Allow excessive fear:

Fear is a natural emotion that we all experience, yet Stoic philosophy teaches us that excessive fear can be detrimental to our well-being and personal growth. Through an understanding of the principles of Stoic teaching, we can learn to manage our fears more effectively, and embrace courage and rationality in the face of life’s uncertainties.

Understanding the nature of fear: Stoics believed that fear, just like other emotions, comes from our judgments and beliefs about external events. In many cases, these judgments are based on irrational assumptions or misconceptions, leading us to experience unnecessary, and avoidable, anxiety and stress. When we examine the thoughts that give rise to our fears, we can challenge these judgments, uproot the ones that are holding us back, and develop a more balanced, rational perspective.

One of the core tenets found in Stoic philosophy is the idea that we should focus on the things within our control while accepting those that are beyond our influence. Often, we’ll find that our fears are rooted in our perception of external events that we can neither control nor predict, such as the actions of others or the course of events.

By recognizing that we can only control our own thoughts, actions, and responses, we can learn to let go of excessive fear and concentrate on the aspects of life that are truly within our control.

Here are three behaviors that can help:

  1. Embracing courage and wisdom: The ancient Stoics viewed both courage and wisdom as core virtues in the pursuit of a good life, virtues that can help us navigate hardship and adversity with a greater resilience and peace of mind. When we develop these qualities, we are better able to confront our fears head-on, making informed decisions, and taking calculated risks in the pursuit of our goals. In this way, we can transform fear from a crippling emotion into a catalyst for personal growth and self-discovery.

  2. Using negative visualization: Stoic thinkers frequently engaged in the practise of negative visualisation, which involves mentally rehearsing impending difficulties or failures in order to better prepare for them. We can gain perspective and lessen the hold that fear has over us by visualising the worst-case scenario and considering how we would react. When we become more aware of the numerous gifts and opportunities that we might otherwise take for granted, this activity can also assist us to cultivate a better sense of appreciation and thankfulness for the present.

  3. Building emotional resilience: Stoicism views adversity as an essential part of life that offers opportunities for growth. By accepting challenges and mastering fear, we can develop the emotional fortitude needed to handle life’s ups and downs. Also, we are better equipped to face impending issues with courage and calm when we address our worries and boost our self-confidence.

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Complaining was another behavior the Stoics viewed as futile and destructive to our peace of mind. To them, complaining is an indication that we’re dissatisfied with the circumstances around us and an indication of our inability to accept the current state of the world.

In a world where venting frustrations and complaining seem to be the norm, it might seem unusual to encounter someone who practices Stoicism, a philosophy that discourages such behavior. Stoics aim to live a life of tranquility, virtue, and wisdom, and they understand that complaining only serves to disturb the peace they strive to maintain. Here, we will explore the reasons behind the Stoic’s aversion to complaining, drawing inspiration from the Stoics themselves.

“Don’t be overheard complaining … not even to yourself.”
― Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics believed in the importance of understanding and accepting the natural order of the world, or what they called, the Logos. This cosmic order governs the universe, and everything that occurs is a result of its working. By recognizing that events unfold according to a greater plan, Stoics can cultivate an attitude of acceptance and serenity, even in the face of adversity. Complaining, on the other hand, goes against this acceptance, as it implies a resistance to the natural course of events.

Another idea that we’ve already touched on (repeating it is intentional) but is central to Stoic thought is the notion that we should focus on what is within our control and accept what is beyond it. When we complain, we often fixate on external circumstances that we cannot influence or change. Stoics emphasize personal responsibility and encourage individuals to take control of their own thoughts, actions, and reactions. Instead of complaining about a situation, Stoics believe that we should focus on how we can respond to it in a constructive and virtuous manner.

Stoics also place great importance on the practice of gratitude, which involves reflecting on the positive aspects of life and appreciating the present moment. By developing gratitude, we can foster a sense of contentment and satisfaction, which in turn discourages the inclination to complain. Moreover, the practice of gratitude helps us to recognize that even in difficult situations, there are often aspects for which we can be thankful.

Generally, the Stoic approach to life discourages complaining in favor of acceptance, personal responsibility, gratitude, emotional resilience, and the pursuit of virtue. By refraining from complaining and embracing the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, we can cultivate a more tranquil and fulfilling existence, even in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.

excessive materialism:

Stoics believe that material possessions are not the source of true happiness, so they strive not to be overly attached to material things.

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

In today’s consumer-driven society, the pursuit of material wealth and possessions often takes center stage, leaving many people feeling perpetually unsatisfied and craving more, stuck on the treadmill and always chasing the next new thing.

In stark contrast, Stoic philosophy encourages individuals to focus on cultivating inner wealth, emphasizing the importance of virtues, wisdom, and personal development over external acquisitions.

Stoics believe in distinguishing between what is truly necessary for a good life and what is simply desired due to societal pressures or personal whims. While basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are essential for survival, excessive materialism often stems from a relentless pursuit of luxury and status symbols. By recognizing this distinction and focusing on what is truly important, Stoics can cultivate a sense of contentment and satisfaction with what they already have.

Stoic philosophy also teaches that material possessions are transient and subject to loss, damage, or decay. By recognizing the impermanent nature of worldly goods, Stoics can detach themselves from the constant desire to accumulate more and instead focus on cultivating virtues and wisdom, which remain constant and enduring.

A similar Stoic belief is that genuine happiness and fulfillment can only be found within, through the development of virtues such as wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. These inner qualities are not dependent on external factors and can provide a lasting sense of contentment and peace. In contrast, the pursuit of material possessions can lead to a never-ending cycle of craving and dissatisfaction, as there will always be something newer, better, or more fashionable to covet.

Generally, Stoic philosophy offers a valuable alternative to the relentless pursuit of material possessions that so often characterizes modern society, and when we focus on the cultivation of inner wealth, distinguishing between needs and desires, embracing simplicity, and practicing gratitude and generosity, we can free ourselves from the trap of excessive materialism and find lasting happiness and fulfillment in a life guided by virtue and wisdom.


Stoics believe that self-pity is a form of self-indulgence, so they strive not to feel sorry for themselves and instead focus on taking responsibility for their own lives.

“A man asked me to write to Rome on his behalf who, as most people thought, had met with misfortune; for having been before wealthy and distinguished, he had afterwards lost all and was living here. So I wrote about him in a humble style. He however on reading the letter returned it to me, with the words: “I asked for your help, not for your pity. No evil has happened unto me.”
― Epictetus

In the face of adversity or personal setbacks, it’s all too common for individuals to fall into the trap of self-pity, focusing on their own suffering and lamenting their misfortune. However, Stoic philosophy encourages us to take a different approach, emphasizing resilience, rationality, and personal growth in the face of hardship.

They believe that everything in the universe, including human experiences and emotions, unfolds according to a divine plan or natural order (the Logos), and by accepting this fundamental principle, we can better understand that adversity and setbacks are an inherent part of life, part of a natural order, and not unique to any one person. This therefore prevents us from falling into the mindset of the victim.

The rationality of the philosophy also teaches that our emotional reactions to events are often the result of our judgments and interpretations, rather than the events themselves. This view of our thoughts and beliefs can take irrational or self-pitying thoughts, challenge them, and replace them with more rational and objective alternatives.

Stoic philosophy also emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own thoughts, emotions, and actions. When we acknowledge their role in shaping their own experiences, Stoics can resist the temptation to indulge in self-pity and instead focus on what they can control, such as their responses to adversity and the cultivation of virtues.

Finally, the philosophy provides a powerful antidote to the self-defeating habit of self-pity, offering practical tools and insights to help individuals cultivate resilience, rationality, and inner strength in the face of adversity. When we embrace the principles of Stoicism, we can free ourselves from the shackles of self-pity and instead choose to live a life guided by wisdom, virtue, and personal growth.

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