- The Stoa Letter
- Purpose Setting
Intentionally moving through life
Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.
Typically – we share two emails a week to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. I’ve cut back to one a week as we run our three week live course.
What are you doing and why are you doing it?
Marcus Aurelius encouraged himself to only think about what he could report to others. This forces clarity and prioritization.
One way to encapsulate it into a practice is purpose setting. Whenever you have a pause or break – whether it’s driving to work, walking to a meeting, or pausing during other transition moments – remind yourself of the purpose of your actions. Life is too short to sleepwalk through.
The Stoic philosopher, Musonius Rufus gave several lectures where he goes through the purpose of ordinary things from furniture to food, lawsuits, and marriage. In each, he asks, what is its function?
Take food. Is it meant to provide pleasure? Not for Musonius Rufus:
Food is for health, not pleasure. Of course, food is pleasurable and that's best experienced with self-control. Indeed, one can use eating as a training ground for building discipline.
Do you agree?
Perhaps not, regardless, the clarity of Musonius Rufus’s thought here is essential. If we held the purpose of things in mind before acting, we’d live more intentional and purposeful lives.
Pause today and bring to mind the purpose of your actions. Then act.
🥗 I think it’s plausible that Musonius Rufus is overlooking the social function that food also plays. Feeding and sharing food is a way to care for one another. Michael and I talk about that here & other issues with Stoicism and food here:
What did you think about today's letter?