Marcus Aurelius is the world's most famous Stoic philosopher.
And, if you don't already know, the philosophy of Stoicism promises some pretty incredible things. First of all, it promises that if you follow it, you're going to be able to make the correct decisions every single time. You're also going to have the ability to live a tranquil life - you will be able to live a life that's just full of balance, where everything just fits in its right place.
Now, these things are quite extreme, and everyone wants to live a life like that. So, to put it to the test, I decided to try Marcus Aurelius Stoic evening routine, every single day for 28 days and this blog post reveals exactly what happened.
It's important to note that the six concepts I'm going to talk about are taken from Marcus Aurelius' book Meditations, which is the private journal that he kept.
After we've gone over the 6 things Marcus Aurelius did every evening, we'll discuss the benefits the routine has brought into my life.
Contemplation of the Sage
The first thing I did every single evening was what the Stoic’s call "contemplation of the sage". In Marcus Aurelius' meditations, he would often ask himself the question: "what would Zeno do?". Here, Marcus was contemplating his role model.
The thing is, it doesn't matter who you're looking up to. For Marcus Aurelius, Zeno was the person he looked up to. But for you, it can be anyone. It can even be Donald Trump... If you like.
The point of doing this is that the person that you're looking up to has some character traits that you want to have, which means that when it comes down to making a decision, you can simply ask yourself the question what would the person I'm looking up to do in this decision?
By doing this you're disassociating yourself from the decision. You're not letting your emotions dictate your decision. Instead, you're deciding what's best for you and acting upon that relentlessly.
Now, I actually take this one step further...
I think an even better exercise is to simply compare yourself to your ideal character traits, such as the 2.0 version of yourself. I think instead of comparing yourself to someone else, compare yourself to yourself.
Jordan Peterson put it perfectly when he said: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to someone else is today”. This way you will focus on your improvements without comparing yourself to others.
This exercise fits in perfectly with my summary of life. Let me quickly explain it right here.
First of all, you define exactly what you want in life. You then define who you need to become in order to achieve that dream life easily. Finally, you define where you are now and the kind of person you are now. Then, your goal every single day is to simply get from where you are now closer towards the kind of person you want to be.
So, to drill this home, for the past 28 days I would practice the ‘contemplation of the sage’, whatever decision would come up, I would simply dream about what my role model would do. I found that helped me make the correct decisions throughout my day.
A View from Above (Best Stoic Exercise)
The second thing in this Stoic evening routine is called "a view from above". I truly believe this is the best Stoic exercise of them all.
Put very simply, it's where you view yourself from a third person point of view, similar to as if you're playing a video game.
First of all, you can zoom out and you see yourself from the third person and you keep zooming out until you see the streets around you. You keep zooming out and to see the city around you and you keep zooming out and keep zooming out until you can see the whole world.
The point of doing this is meant to put everything in perspective when you can look around and you can notice people that are having their first kiss or notice the homeless person who sits on your street. Everything, all of your problems that you constantly think about are put into perspective.
When you recognise that everyone else has problems just as big as you, then your perspective on things will completely change. You're not going to want to complain, you will want to make the most out of your life, and so on.
There's also a second way of doing it. And that is similar to the first exercise we talked about. That is, as you're going on around about your day, view yourself as if you're playing a video game and that you are simply a character.
What this does is, again, it lets you disassociate yourself from your emotions. And I know that you're thinking "this sounds bad", but you can actually see a lot of benefits from it.
When there are times that you want to procrastinate or you want to be lazy, by simply viewing yourself as if you are a character you will have so much more control over the actions that you take, instead of being at the whims with the environment around you or the emotions that you're feeling.
Instead, you take control of yourself by viewing yourself from a third person and make the correct decisions that way, I do this again and again and again throughout my life, and especially in the past 28 days.
Stoic View on Physical Exercise?
The third thing is simply physical exercise. On my YouTube channel, I'm often asked "what's the Stoic view on physical exercise". The answer to that is remarkably obvious: they highly recommend it.
Marcus Aurelius believed that the more you work on your body, the better you'll be able to work on your mind - the body and mind very closely linked. During this experiment, I was working out every single day closer towards the evening and I noticed a huge difference in my physical appearance but also how clear and tranquil my mind felt.
Whilst we're on the topic of Stoicism and physical exercise, it is important to note that Marcus Aurelius did, in fact, look down upon the concept of exercising to look better - he stated that was "vain".
The fourth step I completed during this Stoic evening routine was I meditated every evening. This is going to be an interesting point, and probably not one that you've ever heard of before because I'm not going to be talking about the Buddhist meditation because there's actually another benefit of meditation that I started to notice as I was doing this 28 day exercise.
When you start meditating, they'll be times when you feel an itch, and at the start, you go and you itch it straight away, but with time and hours of meditation you recognise that you don't have to itch it, and you can control your body.
Although it might be tempting to go and scratch that itch, the more you meditate, the more you learn that it's actually beneficial not to scratch. And with time, the itch just disappears. Why is this important? Because with time and meditation, you can learn to control your body not to scratch that itch. That is exactly the same thing that you can do when you're out in the real world.
For example, you're in a meeting, and everyone around you is just getting snappy. Someone says a comment to you and it makes you angry, and you feel the need to snap back. That urge to snap back is exactly the same as the urge to scratch! And not snapping back is like not scratching the itch. It makes you in control of your body and mind.
In the real world, practicing meditation can stop you from acting on that itch to act irrationally in all areas of life.
During the past 28 days of taking part in this Stoic evening routine, I realised the importance of meditating. I now truly realise why Marcus Aurelius put such an emphasis on meditating. Meditating allows you to control your actions to a far greater degree than anything else that I've ever felt and controlling your actions is just so important in everyday life.
Review your Day
Activity number five of the perfect Stoic evening routine is simply reviewing the day. Now, this is something I've actually been doing for a lot longer than 28 days. However, I've been emphasising it and making sure that I spent a lot of time doing it, because it's something that Marcus Aurelius mentioned again and again as very important.
Reviewing your day involves you rehearsing your day in the morning and reviewing your progress in the evening. This allows you to keep constant watch over yourself and put each day for personal review. Just like Marcus Aurelius did with his journal Meditations.
The way Marcus recommended was just to simply think about the day as it went by as chronologically as you can. Why would you do this? Well, there's three benefits.
First of all, by remembering your day, you're able to congratulate yourself for the things that you did well. Why do you want to congratulate yourself? Well, because when you congratulate yourself, your body's more likely to do that thing again. Just like when a dog does something good, you give it a treat, and it's more likely to do it again. If you sit down and you take the time to congratulate yourself for the things that you did well, you're more likely to do it again.
Second benefit is you're able to identify the problems that you did and where you went wrong. If you pinpoint and highlight the things that you did wrong, you know exactly what you need to fix the next day. Whereas if you don't review a day, you end up forgetting about it. Your brain makes rationalisations for why that happened, and you just ignore it.
The third benefit is you're able to see how far you are from the goals you have set. Are you on track to reach your goals? Are you not on track? Do you need to do something different? Reviewing your day will let you do that.
When you are reviewing your day, it's important to take a solid 5 minutes to sit back and reminisce on what happened that day. Every single day I make 1% improvements and over time I will be exactly where I want to be in life and reach the goals I have set.
Benefits of a Stoic Journal
Finally, keeping a Stoic journal will change your life. if you can simply get in the habit of journaling, your life will be absolutely changed. I have found many benefits to keeping a Stoic journal. First of all, I feel happier, there is no other way to describe it, then happiness. I feel happier in general and I think it is from two different reasons.
The journaling and the review in my day helps me solve the problems that I'm having in my life. I get more done, and as you know, getting more done is deep rooted within us to give us fulfilment. Also, meditation has been scientifically proven to increase happiness.
Second benefit, less stress. Things just feel like they're taken care of. I don't have so many nagging worries or a list of things I need to do in my head. Instead, I'm content with my time. I'm content with what I did for the day, because, no time gets wasted. Well, very little gets time wasted. I feel like a machine, getting stuff done at a rate I have never achieved before.
These 28 days of completing the Stoic evening routine have completely pivoted my life. I've a lot more disciplined with myself and therefore much more focused on the things I need to do. I outlined six things I need to do on a day to day basis, and it's impacted me and it's impacted my productivity, a ridiculous amount.
Third and final benefit, I have more energy. I feel like my momentum is taking me to crazy places. I feel that my future is going to be brighter than it's ever been before. I've moved so much. I've got so much done. I've taken so much action. The results have been getting have been insane.
It's given me the push and drive that I needed to carry me forward like a huge tidal wave. I think that's the only way I can describe it. I've built a habit so much that there's this tidal wave that just pushing me towards where I want to be. It's so exciting. That excitement is what's giving me all of this energy. It's like a recurring cycle. When you start to make improvements in your life, more benefits happen, which encourage you to make more improvements, which means more beneficial things happen to you, and so on, and so on.
Until you get this crazy exponential curve, and I feel like I'm right at the beginning of that curve. And finally, When things get done. I feel confident, it's simple. If you lack confidence, there's a couple of options. Number one, you can try to trick your brain into thinking you're good at doing things. Second of all, you can just get stuff done and when you get stuff done.
You can reach your goals, and when you reach your goals, you will get more confidence, which makes you set bigger goals. That confidence then helps you to reach those goals. And again, it's the exponential curve. I feel like I'm right at the beginning. If you want to join me on this crazy journey and you want to improve your life day by day, then go ahead and leave me a comment below on what you think of these new blog posts.