How To Journal Like A Stoic

Epictetus once asserted, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

If we’re living in the world without reflecting and meditating on our actions and virtues, we’re missing an opportunity to live a more integrated and meaningful life. For the Stoics, writing and reflection was less of a “practice”, and more of a daily necessity. When we write, we engage with ourselves and find the important lessons from each day.

The Guiding Principle

The focus of Stoic journaling lies in reflecting on what’s within our control, accepting external events as they occur, and developing our virtues in response to these events. It’s not about what happens, but our judgments and responses to it. Marcus Aurelius’ words resonate, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”

Five Prompts

Below are five introspective journaling exercises designed to bring you clarity of mind.

1. Stoic Reflection: Every evening, reflect on your day. Identify where you acted in line with Stoic principles and where you faltered.

As Seneca advised, “When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent…I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said.”

2. The Dichotomy of Control: Write about a recent situation that caused distress. Now, separate the elements into what was in your control and what was not. How can this understanding change your perception of the event?

3. Practise Negative Visualisation: Contemplate a potential future adversity or meditate on death — Memento Mori — and what living a good life means to you.

Additionally, how might you apply Stoic principles to maintain peace if an unexpected event were to occur? Remember these words from Epictetus: “Misfortune nobly born is good fortune.”

4. Gratitude and Amor Fati: Contemplate an event that initially seemed negative but brought about growth or positive change. Embrace and love it for what it led to. What are you grateful for in your life? After all, Marcus Aurelius encouraged us to “Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”

5. Integrate Stoic Wisdom: Pick one of the Stoic virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Courage, Temperance). Note down your deliberate actions aligned with this virtue and reflect on the outcomes.

The goal with journaling is not perfection, but growth. As you learn from your past, you prepare for your future, and act in harmony with the present.

Build this habit of exploring yourself in the pursuit of tranquillity and wisdom. In the words of Seneca, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”