The Discipline of Action
How to choose
Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.
Every week we share two emails to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. Each email includes one meditation on Stoic theory, one action to do in order to become more Stoic, and links to the best resources we’ve found.
A Stoic is antifragile. Whatever circumstance they’re presented with, they turn it to their advantage. As Marcus Aurelius wrote:
This passage captures the Stoic theme of resilience. Stoicism offers a framework for psychological power – the ability to maintain equanimity in the face of tragedy and trials.
But how can a Stoic turn every event to their own benefit?
When Thomas Edison witnessed the burning of his factories, he brought out his children to view the blaze. After all, this would be the largest fire they’d ever see. There’s always another move, always another play. This is the practical point.
There’s a deep point about value too. For the Stoics, the highest good is excellence or virtue. Virtue is realized by using what we’re given well. The virtuous are like the fires that “assimilate all that are brought to it”. They turn every circumstance into just another one where they act well. Everything fuels who they are – someone who makes excellent decisions.
The discipline of action consists of this: making rational and prosocial choices.
This is how the three disciplines come together. We become more Stoic through desiring the good (discipline of desire), pursuing truth (discipline of judgment), and making excellent decisions (discipline of action). Each is interrelated. To act well demands that we shape ourselves into people who want to be good (discipline of desire), see the world as it is (discipline of judgment), and live well with others (discipline of action).
This is a lifetime project. It is not easy. Yet by constantly working on it, we experience the satisfaction of progress and self-transformation.
Choose one rational and prosocial action today. No matter how simple or small. Do it.
🎺 Stoicism Applied – The Course
Michael Tremblay and I running a live course this Oct-Nov!
In it, we’ll take a deep dive into all three Stoic disciplines, including the discipline of action. It’s for anyone looking to seriously become more Stoic with others.
📜 When Stoics act well, they act with a reserve clause in mind. The thought is that they do their best to achieve an outcome, but recognize that the outcome is ultimately not their own.
🎧️ We’ll be releasing upcoming conversations on each of the three disciplines on Stoa Conversations.
What did you think about today's letter?