Around two-thousand years ago, Stoic philosopher Seneca penned these immortal words:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” — Seneca

The ancient sage’s wisdom rings true in any age. People are thrown into this world with no guidance manual in tow. Most spend their lives running around like a headless chicken. Clueless. Not knowing what to do. At the end, they find themselves full of regrets.

Life is short. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people waste even this tiny sliver of time they have been given. There is a simple reason for that. Their values are wrong, and their actions are pointless.

How do you live a good life? That is an eternal question everyone struggles with. Luckily, there are some answers. Philosophers throughout the ages have pondered the response to this great dilemma. Time-tested, their solutions are probably the best manuals on how to live life we have.

Best of all, they can be applied in different types of situations you will find yourself in. Here are some practical tips from philosophy you can use right now.

Tip 1: Focus on what you can control

You can’t control everything in life. Come to terms with this. There is no use in fretting about it. Instead, focus on what you can control.

Who said: “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power.” — Epictetus

Tip 2: Go with the flow

It’s much easier to go down river than it is to row up-current. If you try to go against the flow, you just end up swept up. Instead, go with the flow. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Who said: “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are.” — Lao Tzu

Tip 3: Have a healthy mind in a healthy body

Your body and your mind are interlinked. If you want to have a good, sound mind, you need to exercise your body. This ancient wisdom has been proven again and again by scientific research. So find some time to exercise.

Who said: “What man is happy? He who has a healthy body, a resourceful mind and a docile nature.” — Thales

Tip 4: Acknowledge your own ignorance

In the modern age, everyone thinks they know everything. Confirmation bias, and other cognitive biases, just feed their delirium. And that is why they fail. Wisdom isn’t knowing everything. Rather, it is admitting your ignorance. The truly wise person sees how much they still have to learn.

Who said: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” — Socrates

Tip 5: Practice having a beginner’s mind

When I was younger, I used to think I knew better than everyone. When someone more knowledgeable than me tried to give me tips, I kept on doing things my way. That is why I failed. Rather, if you really want to learn, you need to empty the cup. Approach things as a baby would, with a beginner’s mind.

Who said: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” — Shunryu Suzuki

Tip 6: Spend time alone with your thoughts

Being able to sit down in an empty room alone, only with your thoughts, is a tremendous superpower. This ability is at the root of willpower, helping you overcome obstacles.

Who said: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal

Tip 7: Give people the benefit of the doubt

How many times have you prejudged people based on the flimsiest of signs? Don’t do it. First impressions are often wrong. Rather, take the time to get to know a person. That’s the only way you will find out about their true character.

Who said: “Prejudice is the child of ignorance.” — William Hazlitt

Tip 8: Be kind

In a cruel world, even one act of kindness can bring light to darkness.

Who said: “My religion is kindness.” — Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama

Tip 9: Be grateful

One thing I learned during the pandemic was to be grateful for things. I remember the first day I went outside after weeks being locked indoors. What a feeling of thankfulness it was. Often, you only realize you had something, when you lose it. Practice gratefulness as often as you can.

Who said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” — Cicero

Tip 10: Let go of fear

Fear keeps you down. It does have its purpose, but most of the time people fall for it when there is no need. Learn to control your fears.

Who said: “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.” — Francis Bacon

Tip 11: Go take a walk

A lot of the philosophers did their best thinking, while walking. Nietzsche, Kant, Thoreau, they all took long walks.

Who said: “Sit as little as possible; do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Tip 12: Be modest in your speech

Truly great people lead by action. They don’t talk a big game. Rather, they play it. Lead by example.
Who said: “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” — Confucius

Tip 13: Turn the other cheek

I get it. When people try to challenge you, it gets you mad. You want to teach them a lesson. Don’t give into your anger. There is a time to defend yourself. Most times though, it is wiser to just turn the other cheek.

Who said: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” — Jesus Christ

Tip 14: Write in your journal

Some of the greatest minds of history had a personal journal. The thoughts of guys like Marcus Aurelius passed down to us because of this. Not only are there many mental health benefits to journaling, it also helps you to gather your thoughts and connect the dots. Often, writing is the thinking.

Who said: “Keep a journal. Pay so much honor to the visits of Truth to your mind as to record those thoughts that have shone therein.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tip 15: Chat with your friends

Humans are social animals. We need bonds with other humans, whether it is family or friends. For many ancient philosophers, friendship was a necessary prerequisite for happiness.

Who said: “Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.” — Epicurus

Tip 16: Honor your family

Your family are the closest people you have.

Who said: “The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” — Thomas Jefferson

Tip 17: Do less

In a busy world, try to find the time to relax.

Who said: “If you seek tranquility, do less.” — Marcus Aurelius

Tip 18: Admire nature

Some of my most powerful experiences are connected with nature. There is something magical when you are looking at the beauty and majesty of the natural world. Whether it is standing on top of a mountain, or by the side of a stream, admiring nature connects you to the greater whole.

Who said: “A childish feeling, I admit, but, when we retire from the conventions of society and draw close to nature, we involuntarily become children.” — Mikhail Lermontov

Tip 19: Stop fearing death

Death is our greatest fear. Ours and that of our loved ones. Ancient philosophers used different techniques in order to try to come to terms with it.

Who said: “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.” — Epicurus

Tip 20: Live life in the moment

You never know what the future will bring. Time goes quick, so try to enjoy the current moment.

Who said: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” — Henry David Thoreau

Tip 21: Make fun of your struggles

I have always found that humor is the greatest tool you have in tough times. Looking at things with your third eye can help you cope. If the absurd world throws sh*t at you, just laugh at it with defiance.

Who said: “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.” — Viktor Frankl

Tip 22: Think about what every failure teaches you

You either succeed or you learn. Every failure has its teaching moments. Spend time reflecting on what your current troubles are teaching you. If you take this type of mindset, then you are much closer to success.

Who said: “Teaching is in each moment, in every existence. That is true teaching.” — Shunryu Suzuki

Tip 23: Reflect on how interdependent everything is

You are part of a greater whole. Your environment has a huge impact on who you are. Reflecting on this can lead you to realizations of higher truth.

Who said: “All phenomena are interdependent. When we think of a speck of dust, a flower, or a human being, our thinking cannot break loose from the idea of unity, of one, of calculation.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Tip 24: Ponder what gives your life meaning

Having a meaning, finding purpose, are the basis of a drive for overcoming even the worst of challenges. Create a meaning for yourself. When the going gets tough, it will give you the motivation to keep on going.

Who said: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”― Viktor Frankl

Tip 25: Work with your hands to create something

The famous Ikea effect demonstrates that people put a higher value on something they built themselves, than which they bought. Many people actually find meaning by creating things. Write. Draw. Create. It will make you happier.

Who said: “The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth.” — Matthew Crawford

Tip 26: Always add to the pleasures of others, and diminish their pains

We, as humans, are often defined by how we live with others. Many philosophers have argued that the greatest joy you can receive is through giving joy to others. Philosopher of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, argued that you should always base your actions on a “hedonistic calculus”, doing actions which increase the overall happiness of everyone.

Who said: “Every day will allow you to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find a harvest in your own bosom.” — Jeremy Bentham

Tip 27: Moderation in all things

Don’t live life in the extremes. Instead, the key to a good life is moderation in all things. The so-called “golden mean”. Don’t over-indulge yourself on junk and other wasteful pleasures. However, don’t deprive yourself of everything either. Keep a healthy balance.

Who said: “Nothing in excess.” — Delphic Maxim

Tip 28: Make knowledge your friend

Life is about learning. About the world. And about yourself. Some of the greatest pleasures I have experienced were when I made little discoveries about how the world works. So pick up a book. Go exploring. Make knowledge your friend, and you will always have something to do.

Who said: “If you cannot make knowledge your servant, make it your friend.” — Baltasar Gracian

Tip 29: Want less

The key for being satisfied is not about wanting more. Rather, it is about being satisfied with what you have. Want less, and you will be happier.

Who said: “He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.” — Epicurus

Tip 30: Don’t blame others for your misfortunes

This is a classic. As humans, we like to shy away from responsibility. It is easy to blame others for your misfortunes. It is much harder to own up to them. Yes, life is often unfair. Yet, it is often not the destination that matters, but the journey. Don’t blame others for your misfortunes. Hold your head high, and keep on fighting.

Who said: “The signs of one who is making progress are: he blames none, praises none, complains of none, accuses none.” — Epictetus

Tip 31: Stay humble

Don’t brag. Seriously, what’s the point? Thinking you are the best thing since sliced bread leads to hubris. And that will bring about your downfall. Stay humble, and you will get further.

Who said: “Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.” — Lao Tzu

How to apply the tips

Hopefully, I have summarized for you some of philosophy’s greatest lessons. These things are simple, and you have probably heard many of them before. Yet, I bet you probably haven’t put most of these into practice. Now is your chance.

Make a conscious effort. There are many ways to apply the tips. Different people will have different preferences and ways of going about it.

Pick one tip and reflect on it. Think about how you can apply in it in your life. Maybe focus that day on really putting it into practice. Or, pick a select few. Really try to ingrain them in your way of doing things. If you want, you can keep a virtue journal like Benjamin Franklin used to do.

No matter your preferred way of doing things, the key is to do it. You will fail often on your journey. Doesn’t matter. Pick yourself up, and keep on going.


An earlier version of this article was originally published on “Medium” here.
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