A Stoic Meditation For Doing Your Best

How to be excellent today

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.

🏛️ Theory

Ignore the past, don’t be distracted by the future. Just be excellent today.

Imagine the greatest version of yourself dropped into your life and took your place. This person always does their best. They may not be perfect, but they act as well as they can. It doesn’t matter what circumstance or obstacle they face.

This suggests a simple exercise:

  • Contemplate the best version of yourself.

  • Picture them taking your place.

  • Visualize how they would act.

  • And then live today in the same manner they would.

By modeling virtuous behavior, we can motivate ourselves to act with excellence.

However, we need to make this meditation more concrete and avoid common pitfalls.

First, define the best version of yourself carefully. Aim for someone realistic. When running, I imagine running next to a ghost of the most excellent version of myself. What do they do? They do not slow down. Instead of slowing their pace after discomfort and fatigue, they continue. No doubt impacts them.

Now – I could imagine a runner like the Flash, Achilles, or Usain Bolt – but that would be useless. I am just not that fast. My best version of myself is someone whose physical form I can match.

Likewise, your model must be someone concrete whose thoughts and decisions you can imitate.

Now, if you do this exercise you may fail. Sometimes you may not live in the same way the greatest version of you would.

When this thought arises, you should ask, “did you actually fail?” Failure looks like laziness or hastiness. Failure has nothing to do with others’ behavior or outcomes. Now – those things could be evidence that you fell short, but they don’t necessitate it. What matters is whether you do your best. Focus on what is up to you.

Once you’ve answered that question – continue. Perhaps you failed. You’ll likely do so again. What matters is that you return your attention to the matter at hand.

Another pitfall that many face is success. Sometimes this may be harder to handle than failure.

Many of us have tried something on a whim only to totally triumph. Perhaps you aren’t prepared for doing so well or imposter syndrome follows next.

The lesson here is the same. You succeeded and you’ll do so again. What matters is that you return your attention to the matter at hand, again and again.

Stay Stoic!

🎯 Action

Live as if the best version of you dropped into your life and took your place.

🎺 Stoicism Applied – The Course

Michael Tremblay and I a running a course this Oct-Nov!

Over 3 weeks, you'll learn the foundations of Stoic theory and practice.

Each module is grounded in the ancient texts and our practical experience teaching thousands of other people how to be more Stoic. We'll follow Epictetus's three-part structure for teaching Stoicism by focusing on the disciplines of desire, judgment, and action.

I hope to see you there – it’s an excellent opportunity to learn from us and fellow participants seriously walking the Stoic path.

Join the waitlist here. We’ll be opening enrollments soon.

🔗 Resources

Dealing with failure is easy: Work hard to improve. Success is also easy to handle: You've solved the wrong problem. Work hard to improve.

Alan Perlis

Those who fail to follow the way out of exhaustion collapse, you have not collapsed, you have drawn a line.


💸 Interested in investing? Michael joined Rational Reminder to discuss Stoicism, how a Stoic mindset can positively impact one’s investment decisions, and how Stoicism shapes his own life philosophy.

📺️ Check out our newest meditation in the Stoa youtube channel, from the Musonius Rufus series:

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