Finding The Place Between Stimulus And Response
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.
Between stimulus and response, there is a pause – and in that pause, we find our freedom
A core aspect of Stoicism is locating this pause. It’s about aiming to respond to the world intentionally, instead of reacting to it blindly.
Stoicism promises the ability to reprogram our behavior patterns by improving our decisions and judgments. It’s much easier to do that if we’re able to take advantage of the silence between event and reaction.
But how do you do that?
First, locate a specific moment in your life where you want to pause more. Choose a personal change that is both ambitious and realistic. Identify the external and internal triggers of your reaction in detail. Set the goal of pausing after any of these triggers occur – then turn to what matters. Here are five potential strategies to practice.
Simulate pausing. You can do this by visualization or, possibly, by going through the motions. For instance, if you want to pause before opening up social media from your phone, you can go through the motions of picking up your phone: unlocking it, moving your thumb to a social media icon, and then pausing. Do this again and again. Break instinctual behavioral patterns.
Remind yourself why you want to pause. Compare the disparity between the world where you pause and act well and the one where you continue reacting to the world. Use your own self-image as a model. Contrast who you could be with who you are and use that to motivate action.
Improve your perception through meditation. In meditation, we become more aware of internal and external events. We can notice what’s going on internally – in order to take advantage of the moment when we need to.
Keep your principles at hand. What happens when you pause? Remind yourself of Stoic principles in order to make excellent judgments and decisions.
Create an environment that’s conducive to stillness. It’s more difficult to think clearly if the temptations to immediately react to the world surround you. Make it difficult to access social media – if that’s what you’re focused on. Create a quiet and calm environment.
Let me know if there are additional strategies you’ve found useful. Stay Stoic.
Today, find the moment between stimulus and response. Take advantage of it.
💡 In our last Stoicism Applied cohort, Serge mentioned the phrase: a Stoic step back. Before reacting, remind yourself to pause, get distance, and look at things as they are. Take a Stoic Step back. Serge credits the term to Rob Colter.
💬 Whenever I mention the quote:
I am asked to source it to Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist, holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. The quote accurately captures some of his wisdom. However, it’s one of those lines whose true origin is unclear.
What did you think about today's letter?