What does the typical day of someone who applies the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius actually look like? Let’s imagine you put all those suggestions into practice. How would this help you to get through the day?
You are lying in your bed when the alarm clock suddenly rings. Rise and shine, you need to start your day.
You hesitate a bit, after all you still feel sleepy and the bed just feels so comfortable. You ponder staying in bed for longer, but then you remind yourself that waking up is what you are meant to do. By lying in bed all day, you don’t do any good to yourself or anyone else.
So you spring up and start your morning routine. You brush your teeth and do all the other necessary hygiene stuff, then a little stretching, followed up by a hearty breakfast.
After finishing up your breakfast you take 15 minutes to plan out your day. You sit down and think about the answers to these three questions:
1) What have I done yesterday and how did it go?
2) What do I plan to do today?
3) Are there any potential problems that I will face today?
You reflect on the things you did yesterday and what went right and what went wrong. Then you move onto the things that you want to do today.
You do a little mental visualization and then take out your little kanban board and a pack of Post-Its and start writing out your goals for the day.
You put all your chores (all the boring stuff like paying bills or answering emails) on red Post-Its, and all the goals (interesting stuff that will help you in your quest for self-improvement) on green Post-Its.
Then you put all the Post-Its into the first section of your kanban board, the To Do part. Throughout the day, as you work on these chores and goals, you will move the Post-Its from the To Do section, to the Doing section, and then finally to the Done section.
Lastly, as the final point of your short reflection session, you think about the potential problems and obstacles you will likely face today and come up with a few mitigation strategies.
After doing all this, you get dressed and head out to work.
You get to the bus stop and wait. You wait and wait and wait. You realize that the bus is very late.
At first, you start getting really anxious. You will be late for work!
Then you remember to go back to thinking about this particular situation itself. What can you control here? The fact that the bus is late is beyond your control. So stop getting anxious. It will not help the situation one bit.
You start thinking about the consequences of being late to work. You think of the worst case scenario. You could get fired!
You think of how likely this actually is. Not very likely. The most you will get is a few stares. Who cares, right? You have long ago stopped caring about what others think of you.
The bus finally comes and you get on it. After arriving at work you sit at your desk and start going through emails. Unfortunately this is a ritual that you have to do every time you get to work. You accept it.
Then suddenly a colleague barges into your space and starts shouting at you. This stokes your emotions and you are at the verge of shouting back.
However before you get into a retarded shouting match, you remember the technique of Emperor Augustus. In order to take control of your emotions, you start reciting the alphabet in your head. This is a way of mentally distancing yourself from the event in front of you and has the effect of calming you down.
This way you don’t play your colleague’s game and instead proceed in a calm manner. After a while, seeing that you aren’t fluttered, your colleague ceases to pester you and leaves.
After that you have an important meeting. The frame that you adopt towards a meeting like this matters a lot. In order not to have a negative frame, right before the meeting you go over the points that you want to get out of it and instead have a more positive frame.
During the meeting, you realize that people are falling for cognitive biases. They are rushing into a project without sitting down and rationally thinking about the pros and cons of the project, as well as the potential consequences.
Luckily, you know the dangers of not being rational when making an important decision and try to bring the discussion back to Earth. You use a short checklist tool in order to analyze what are the potential problems with the project.
Finally, it is lunch time and you head out to eat with some colleagues. You get to the restaurant and your colleagues keep complaining about the food.
You don’t have that problem. You use the technique of stripping things down to their first principles to remind yourself to keep a level head.
What is food actually for? It is just a way for getting nutrients into your body so that it can function well. The food in front of you has all the things that you need for that. That’s why there is no reason to complain.
You silently swallow down all the pieces of your food, while the people around you make disgusted faces.
For the rest of the day, you continue doing things with a purpose. Whenever there is a lull in what you are doing, instead of wasting your time on coffee breaks, smoking breaks, Instagram and other BS stuff that your co-workers are likely doing, you use that time for productive purposes.
You identify some key things that you want to learn in order to improve your skills and you focus on those. Whenever you have some free time at your work, you fill it up with learning.
After work, you go to the gym. A good mind in a healthy body is a must for any budding Renaissance Man. Working out in the gym also helps you with your intrinsic motivation, which is very important for anyone implementing the ideas of Marcus Aurelius into their life.
At the end of the day, before going to bed, you reflect on the things that happened during the day. What went right, what went wrong, what do you need to do the next few days.
Always keep in mind that the world is uncertain, and at times can be quite random and confusing. By keeping this wider perspective, it will be much easier for you to find your place in this chaos and go about your things much more effectively.
Your Next Steps
This was a step by step description of the day of someone who practices the system of Marcus Aurelius. Each day is different of course, but by keeping some basic principles in mind, you can make sure that your day turns out fine and you overcome all the major obstacles with a cool and level head.
In order to learn more about the system of Marcus Aurelius, begin by reading my summary of his thoughts:
Then go into my series on describing the Three Stoic Disciplines:
In order to internalize these things, it helps if you read the articles several times and periodically return to them. After all, if you look at the writings of Marcus Aurelius, you will see that he would systematically return to the same elements time and time again. Repetition helps.
However, what is most important is that besides learning the theory, you actually start implementing all this stuff in practice. You can start with small steps, implementing one element, then learning some techniques, always adding one small step one after another.
The Adventures of Mr. Chimp
Mr. Chimp is sitting perched on a rock in his encampment in the zoo. In the background, some kids are shouting insults at him.
Dr. Brainiac approaches him:
“You are such a Stoic, Mr. Chimp. Not being bothered by all these insults.“
Mr. Chimps looks at him with a puzzled face and then takes the headphones out of his ears:
“What did you say? I wasn’t listening.“