The Reserve Clause
Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.
Every week we share emails – usually two – 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. For the next few weeks we’re changing our frequency to one email per a week as we run our course.
The Stoic reserve clause involves adding a disclaimer to each desire: “fate permitting.” Whenever you set out to do something, remember that it may not happen as you want.
This simple reminder helps us become less dependent on external outcomes. The frustrations of our plans are lose their force if we understand that things often go wrong.
Instead of holding onto our desires for dear life, we can loosen our grasp. As the facts change, we should change too.
However – there is a potential trap with this approach. As the quip goes:
The reserve clause isn’t an excuse to abandon our plans at the first sign of adversity. Indeed, although it defends us against the bludgeonings of chance, that is not its primary purpose.
Instead, it’s a technique for seeing reality as it is. The universe is transformation. Always changing, always out of our control. What we wish may not come to pass.
The reserve clause reminds us to not invest in outcomes. Stoics focus on their character instead.
As Seneca encourages us:
Stoicism calls you to do your best – while recognizing that things will rarely go as planned.
Bring to mind one of your plans today and apply the reserve clause to it. Then act.
🎧️ If you haven’t already, listen to Michael and I discuss the reserve clause here. It is one of the primary ways we can practice the discipline of action.
✉️ Check out this 10-day email series from What Is Stoicism? Start your next 10 days with Stoic morning routines that take only 10 minutes.
What did you think about today's letter?