Prepare Yourself for the Day: The Stoic Morning Routine
“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil.” – Marcus Aurelius
One of the most advocated routines by the Stoics is to take time to look inward, examine, and reflect. Best times to do that? In the morning after rising and in the evening before you go to bed.
Epictetus advises to rehearse the day in the morning, and then review your progress in the evening. At daybreak, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
- What do I still lack in order to achieve freedom from negative emotions?
- What do I need to achieve tranquility?
- What am I? – A rational being.
The idea is to get better each and every day. Get a step closer toward our goals. Also, we should remind ourselves of our rational nature so we don’t (over-)identify with body, property, or reputation. We better aspire to greater reason and virtue, and meditate on our actions.(A friend of us created this animated video with the exact same content as the article.)
Marcus Aurelius proposes to remind yourself in the morning “of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
And as seen in the opening quote, he wants us to prepare to meet challenging people later in the day (that's classic negative visualization).
Today and every day, you can almost be certain to meet someone who seems like a jerk. The question is: Will you be ready for it? If you prepare yourself in the morning, chances improve that you’ll be ready to face challenging interactions with patience, forgiveness, understanding, and kindness.
To be clear: You do not prepare to be against the world, you prepare to act reasonably within a chaotic world where not everybody is as well prepared as you are.
Marcus further reminds himself that those people who oppose him are akin to him, “not of the same blood or birth as me, but the same mind.” And these relatives can neither harm him nor can he be angry with them, because we are made for cooperation.
Seneca reminds himself of the impermanence of things each morning: “The wise will start each day with the thought, ‘Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own.’ Nothing, whether public or private, is stable.”
He continues and says, whatever has been reared over the work of years can be destroyed within a few seconds. How many towns in Syria and Macedonia have been swallowed up by a single shock of earthquake? How often has this kind of devastation laid Cyprus in ruins?
“We live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die. Mortal have you been born, to mortals you have given birth. Reckon on everything, expect everything.” – Seneca
In other words: Memento mori (remember you are mortal). This mental preparation in the morning will help you focus on the important things and you be ready to meet difficulties with calmness, resilience, and patience.
Expect everything and be ready for anything—only so can you be your best at all times.
Morning preparation is crucial if you want to keep your calm and express your highest self even in the midst of a storm.
Modify the Stoics’ morning routines to your liking; maybe you want to form a plan for the day or maybe you want to give yourself a pep talk, maybe you want to exercise, meditate, or journal, and maybe you want to sing under the shower. Feel free, just make sure to keep a regular morning routine.
Always remember: "Mortal have you been born, to mortals you have given birth. Reckon on everything, expect everything."
This is one of 55 Stoic practices in the second part of my upcoming book The Little Book of Stoicism.
Very well said Jonas: the importance and benefits of a morning routine followed consistently. I value what you’ve shared and the poignant quotations sprinkled throughout to authenticate and bring alive the power of the thoughts you share. And, the evening routine, indeed, is none less inportant.
I also find delight and agreement with your motto, as share in your mini-bio above.
Thank you kindly.
Thanks so much, Mike.
Haha, my motto 🙂
Love this stuffJonas. I used it in life as I do as a professional golfer on the Senior Tour…it helps my head, it calms me and regardless of a good shot or not, I stay calm, and navigate my way around the course preparing before each shot for the worst outcome. It may sound negative but it’s not…it’s just as the stoics practiced anticpating the worst of what lies in the road ahead…as it pertains to golf, that practice is what the best of us do out here…where’s the best place to miss this shot, where’s the best place to enter the green from the fairway, where’s the best place to leave this putt…this course management strategy is what separates the hacks from the pro’s….and in life the have and the have not so muchs’:-) Peace Brother…good work, keep it going, love it!!! JEF3x
Thanks J, glad you’re enjoying our content. Cool, you’re the first pro golfer I interact with – even if it’s just through a comment 🙂
You’re right. I don’t think it’s negative at all if you prepare for any possible outcomes. And since we’re better able to handle “good” outcomes, it makes sense to prepare for the not so good outcomes. In golf, and in other sports as well. They call it “The Process” or focus on the process. This is immensely helpful in sports as you only control your practice, effort, and focus when you hit the ball/egg/puck.
Thanks, we’ll keep putting in the effort here at NJlifehacks 🙂
All the best on the Senior Tour.
Go to bed little wiser every day…..is a very interesting quote, something new I
have learned today, as part of learning habit
Yeah, this is definitely interesting 🙂
It’s not easy, but if we get most days, then we’re on a strong track.
As Charlie Munger said, “Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily if fast spurts.”