Daily life can be busy. And it can be worrying. And exciting, anxious and a whole host of other things that distract us from focusing on ourselves and the present moment. Sometimes we need Stoic reminders, because moments of greater perspective aren’t always a priority.
In the morning, you might need that Marcus Aurelius quote that sets you up for the day. In the afternoon, you might need that particular piece of wisdom from Seneca that clears your head. In the evening, you might need those words of Epictetus that keep you focused on what’s important.
But often your mind is too occupied worrying about yesterday’s mistakes, the day ahead or even what tomorrow will bring. The times you most need some Stoic wisdom can be the times your brain is too inaccessible to retrieve it.
Rather than leave it to chance that Marcus will instinctively spot our troubles and gracefully insert himself into our consciousness astride his trusty horse with an arm aloft and save us, we can prepare ahead of time.
By setting up some reminders that are impossible to miss through the course of your normal day, you’re guaranteed to start shifting your mindset towards Stoicism without even trying.
If you keep mobile screen time to a minimum and using a Stoic wallpaper doesn’t take your fancy, there are even easier ways to give yourself some Stoic reminders through the day.
How do you do that? With good old-fashioned post-it notes!
Yep, those sticky notes that you write on and attach to surfaces!
The beauty is in the simplicity – they’re inexpensive and can be customised with whatever piece of Stoic wisdom you like.
Here are some ideas on how to use them.
Given we’re staying away from the phone screen for these, the first one seems pretty apt…
1. The Device Reminder
Of course Seneca and the other Stoics didn’t have to deal with issues such as social media over-indulgence and mobile device addiction, but they still saw the value in getting outdoors and clearing the mind. This one catches the eye when I pick up my device and gently lets me know that there may be more productive things to do.
Some quotes I like to use for this reminder are:
We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind
Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.47
As long as you honour material things, direct your anger at yourself rather than the thief or adulterer.Epictetus, Discourses 1.18.12
The second reminder covers a different situation but is no less avoidable…
2. The Alarm Clock Reminder
No-one likes the sounds of the alarm first thing in the morning so I tried to spin that moment into a positive. Reaching over to turn off the incessant beeping or buzzing, the first thing you’ll see after opening your eyes is some Stoic advice.
The following from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is perfect for this:
When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous, and cranks.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1
Next, here’s a reminder that’s based around doing something that’s already good for you.
3. The Workout Reminder
We can all get anxious about crafting a better body in the gym or just keeping fit and healthy, but something I’ve certainly been guilty of in the past is not realising that mental health is just as important as physical health. To keep this in mind I’ve put some reminders in places I can’t miss when I’m preparing for a workout.
Here are some ideas on locations for these:
- On a regularly used protein container or shaker bottle
- In your gym bag
- On your exercise equipment (e.g. treadmill) if you have some at home
And some good quotes to use:
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.Seneca, Seneca’s Morals by Way of Abstract
Either pain affects the body (which is the body’s problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquillity. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.28
Of course there are many other places you might think of placing a piece of Stoic advice to help you through the day. To name a few:
- On your desk/workspace to keep you going during the day when your motivation dips
- Near your television to remind you not to spend so much time watching it
- On your fridge door – simply because you’ll see it several times a day!