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I’m Pete Abilla, founder and CEO of a private tutoring marketplace with over 100,000 private tutors. I have nine kids, four of whom we adopted. I run a company and am very busy with that.
I’ve been a practicing Stoic for many years and these daily declarations help me everyday as I deal with stress at work and the busyness of being the father of a large family.
I would like to share these powerful thoughts with you today.
15 Daily Declarations for a Better Life
1) There are things within – and outside our control.
Epictetus believed that there are things within our control, and things outside our control. He taught that principle over 2500 years ago, yet most people attribute that principle to Stephen Covey. It was Epictetus who first said it. This principle is a key and is the foundation for the rest of the daily declarations that I’ll describe.
2) The only thing we have control is what we do right now, which does shape the future.
When you think of things that are stressful or create anxiety – when you truly think of it – they’re usually of things that are in the past (e.g. dang, I should’ve chosen a different path), or things in the future (e.g. how will I get enough retirement money to support myself).
Neither the past nor the future is in our control. It makes NO sense thinking about the future. Focus on the present and do what’s in your control.
3) Some things are better left unsaid.
Cato the Younger said (and I’m paraphrasing):
“I begin to speak only when I’m certain the things I say aren’t better left unsaid.”
This is a powerful daily practice. It’s possibly one of the best daily declarations that will prevent misunderstandings and fights at home or at work.
4) Expect negative outcomes but react virtuously.
Marcus Aurelius, who at the time in 121 AD, was the most powerful person in the world. Yet, he was widely recognized as a good human being. In his personal journal, he wrote this to himself:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.”
This was a practice called negative visualization. The Stoics did this so that they could be ready for surprises and they could plan for how they would respond. So when Marcus said this, it was always followed with how he would react. And for a Stoic, the response must be virtuous.
5) Treat others as if it was their last day on earth.
In the early Roman Empire, the mortality rate was around 50 percent for infants. So, literally, you could kiss your baby goodnight and the next day it could be dead. Based on this, Epictetus suggested that we should imagine that the person you are interacting with will die the next day.
Kind of morbid, but what this did for him and the early Stoics is it really guided how they interacted with people. As a result of this, they were open, kind, and they focused on true things, not trivial pursuits.
6) Things could be worse – be grateful.
The early Stoics were very interested in hardening themselves. So, they had daily declarations and practices for conditioning their minds and bodies for hardship. It could be as simple as taking cold showers or sleeping on the floor instead of a bed.
The purpose for all of this was to engender a feeling of gratitude and to also condition your mind and body that things could be worse. Incidentally, this is also the practice in our modern military, especially boot camp and hell week for the special forces. It makes sense – all the early Stoics were also combat warriors.
7) Remember to serve others.
Marcus Aurelius, again the most powerful person on the earth at the time, taught that we were born to serve others. Keep in mind: this was a few decades after Jesus Christ. History tells us that hardly anyone knew of Jesus at the time. Yet they both taught similar teachings. This is one of the most powerful and super productive, mission-driven daily declarations to live by.
8) Events are neither good nor bad – things happen all the time.
Shakespeare is known for the phrase:
“Events aren’t good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
He actually took that line from Seneca, an early Stoic. Here’s what he meant: events happen. They happen to all of us. There’s no value judgment on events. But, when we start adding judgment or over-interpretations on the meaning of events, then we get emotional turmoil.
Things happen. Be indifferent to it and move about your day and focus on what you can control.
9) See things for what they truly are to remain humble.
Seeing things as they really are is a key teaching and one of the great daily declarations. The early Stoics often did this with everyday things.
Marcus Aurelius, practiced this teaching with food. He used to say that he was only eating a dead fish, instead of some fancy name for the dish they served emperors. Or, he would say about his robe that it’s just cloth dyed with the blood of shellfish instead of falling into the trap of thinking that it’s a fancy purple robe only made for kings and emperors. This practice helped him stay humble.
10) You are as free as you believe you are.
Admiral James Stockdale, who was a POW in Vietnam for nine years and was the highest ranking prisoner at the time, was very influenced by Epictetus. Incidentally, Admiral Stockdale was in the same prison camp as Senator John McCain.
Epictetus was born a slave and his master had badly broken his leg. When Stockdale was a POW, the captors placed his legs in leg clamps for months, which caused his legs to weaken to the point where he couldn’t hold his own weight standing up. What got Admiral Stockdale through? The words of Epictetus:
“Oh, you will cut off my leg? Good. I am not my legs. I still have the power to think. I still have my freedom.”
11) There is power in forgiveness and letting go.
When people do you wrong, they are either aware of it or unaware of it. If they’re unaware, let it go and move on. It’s not your problem to fix. If they’re aware of it and did it wilfully, let it go also. It’s a character flaw in them that’s not your problem to fix. Treat them kindly. That’s in your power.
12) Want what you have.
Seneca taught a lot about envy. He said that:
“Let us not envy those who stand on a higher station: what appears as heights are cliffs”
In other words, envy makes no sense. Want what you have. When you look at others and wish you had those things, keep in mind that having those is probably a challenge for that person. It’ll lead them to think more of themselves than they really are. And pride is the downfall of their being.
13) Work on your principles in life, that they may be as strong against adversities.
A key Stoic teaching is to educate with your actions and to remain unspotted from the world. Epictetus said:
“Keep well out of the Sun, then, so long as your principles are as pliant as wax.”
This principle will help you focus on getting things done, instead of just talking about them. Remember your daily declarations and work on strengthening your character every day.
14) Wake up early to live out your mission.
Get up early. Marcus Aurelius said to himself in his journal:
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
Getting up early and staying in front of your day instead of trying to catch-up is a key daily practice to remain productive and positive.
15) Live deliberately
This is the key to living a good life. Living with purpose isn’t enough. We must live and do each action deliberately and purposefully. By doing so, we are aware of their consequences, which can help us steer things in our control.
Which of these daily declarations will you apply to your life immediately?
If you enjoyed this post about daily declarations, feel free to leave comments below. We’d love to hear from you.