How to Practice Stoicism in Daily Life (Examples and Exercises)

Updated June 30, 2023

Stoicism is a philosophy that is meant to be applied to your actual life, not just hidden in some dusty old books in a library.

Learning how to practice Stoicism, therefore, is accessible to anyone who truly wants to lead a virtuous and good life.

In this article, we will go over a number of actionable Stoic exercises you can use in your daily life and examples of Stoic practice. First, though, we'll touch upon some of the major concepts that you'll want to adopt in your thinking as you go through your day.

How to Practice Stoicism in Daily Life

To actually practice Stoicism, you'll need to adopt the mindset of a Stoic. As you consistently work to learn and apply the principles of Stoicism to your daily life, you'll find that it becomes increasingly second nature to use Stoicism to navigate the challenges and victories of your everyday experience.

Let's go over some of the concepts and practices you'll want to become familiar with as you start to practice Stoicism.

Start the Day Off Right

One thing that many successful people have in common is that they practice a morning routine.

The Stoics knew just how important it was to get up and get going in the morning-- Marcus Aurelius wrote the following in his Meditations:

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"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

– Marcus Aurelius

If you want to practice Stoicism in your daily life, starting off on the right foot is essential. Even when you don't feel like getting up, you can remind yourself that you have important work to do. Even the emperor of Rome didn't feel like getting out of bed some days:

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

– Marcus Aurelius

Later in the article, we'll touch upon the specifics of some of these exercises.

In general, though, here are four things you can do in the morning to start the day like a Stoic:

  1. Get up and get going-- don't lounge around
  2. Take a moment to reflect on what the day will bring-- practice negative visualization, aka premeditatio malorum or "the premeditation of evils."
  3. Voluntarily engage in some form of discomfort-- embracing discomfort as the day begins can help you build mental and physical fortitude.
  4. Practice being in the present moment-- beginning the day with mindfulness will help you in your effort to maintain a presence in the moment throughout the day.

Incorporate Stoicism Into Your Daily Routine

If you really want to practice Stoicism, you need to build it into your life.

While some philosophies might largely exist in the sphere of ideas, Stoicism is a practical philosophy. It's meant to be actually incorporated into your normal life, even the mundane bits.

"Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it."

– Epictetus

Stoicism isn't something you should check in on once a year. Building Stoic virtues, principles, and practices into your daily routine will help you consistently utilize the wisdom of the philosophy as you go about your day.

Practice Living Virtuously Daily

The Stoics believed that living virtuously was both "necessary and sufficient" for living a happy life.

The four virtues are:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Justice
  • Temperance

You might think that your life is too boring to contemplate lofty concepts like how to be courageous, but nothing could be further from the truth.

If you look carefully, there is the opportunity to be virtuous or to succumb to vices countless times throughout the day.

Take Action

If you aren't careful, it's easy to spend a whole life just dreaming of what you could do and who you could be.

It's also easy to overthink everything you do under the guise of being well-prepared.

There's nothing wrong with preparation, and there's nothing wrong with not acting thoughtlessly and spontaneously. At the same time, you'll need to take action if you want to make progress in your life.

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“Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.”

– Seneca the Younger

Take some advice from Seneca the Younger and stop procrastinating. Your actions are one of the few things you can control in this life, so get going!

Marcus Aurelius points to an important balance at the same time. You shouldn't procrastinate in your actions and be clear in your speech and thoughts. At the same time, don't be such a workaholic that you forget about the other important things in life.

“In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.” 

– Marcus Aurelius

Guard Your Time

As you read this article, the clock is ticking. Time is passing.

In our lives, we only have so much time. We can't get it back once it's gone, and we have no way of knowing for sure how much we have left.

Your time is your most precious resource. Don't be flippant with it.

“People are frugal guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

– Seneca the Younger

In one of his writings, Seneca once said that we often complain about not having enough time, but the truth is that we waste the time we have. Don't be too casual handing your time out to others or spending hours doing things of little value-- you never know when your last hour of life will come to pass.

Hold Fast to the Truth

It isn't always easy to speak the truth. In fact, it isn't always to know what's true in the first place.

We live in a complex world, and it doesn't seem like it's getting simpler anytime soon. Marcus Aurelius has a way of stating difficult things so simply, though, such as in the following quote:

"If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it."

– Marcus Aurelius

As Stoics, we must work to really discover what the truth is, even when it seems uncomfortable, even when it seems to fly in the face of the status quo, and even when it makes us realize that we've been wrong in the past.

"If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance."

– Marcus Aurelius

Standing up for what you believe is right and speaking what you believe to be the truth isn't always cheap. Many great men and women in history have lost everything in order to perform what they believed was their duty-- holding fast to the truth.

Learn to Actively Love Your Fate

Amor fati is Latin for the "love of one's fate." Though this is a Nietzschean idea, embracing one's fate appears repeatedly in the works of the Stoics.

marcus aurelius image and quote how to practice stoicism in daily life

"Welcome every experience the looms of fate may weave for you."

– Marcus Aurelius

The idea of embracing your fate might sound like an excuse to give up, to be nihilistic. If what's going to happen is going to happen no matter what, what's the point of trying?

What it means is that we must learn to embrace every human experience. To be exhilarated by our participation in the grand and mysterious existence of everything. To recognize that there is meaning and purpose behind everything that happens to us and lessons to be learned.

“The willing are led by fate, the reluctant are dragged.”


Jim Rohn once said, "Don't wish it was easier; wish you were better." Don't wish that fate handed you different cards-- work to figure out how to use those cards to your advantage.

Remember the Impermanence of Everything

It's so easy in this life to cling to things. We cling to people, we cling to places, we cling to things, and we cling to our own sense of identity.

Nothing in this world is permanent, though. As Marcus Aurelius tells us, "The universe is change."

As you go through your day, remind yourself that nothing lasts. Though this can initially feel like a cause for despair, there is something truly beautiful about it.

Cultivate Self-Discipline and Resilience

In the next section, we'll go over some exercises to help you do just this.

To live like a Stoic, make sure to deliberately work to improve your self-discipline. Work to become more resilient as a person.

Don't fall prey to the cultural norm of being absolutely wasteful with your free time. Take control of what you can control. Cultivate discipline and resilience.

Take Responsibility For Your Own Happiness

Not happy with how things are going in your life? Whose fault is that, exactly?

According to the Stoics, you're in control of your own choices. You're in control of the things that are internal to you.

Though there are many external events that fall outside of your control, nothing external to you can ever dictate your happiness. At the same time, it's worth noting that the word eudaimonia, which was the overarching goal for life according to the Stoics, is often translated to "happiness." In reality, a better translation is "thriving" or "flourishing."

So, if you don't feel like you're flourishing, this can be a good place to start exercising your new-found Stoicism. At the same time, if you're experiencing constant unhappiness, start working on taking control of how you respond to events. As Epictetus reminds us:

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

– Epictetus

Do everything you can to create a good flow of life for yourself. As for the rest? Learn to accept it and even embrace it as a part of the complex web of fate we're all entwined within.

Embrace an Attitude of Continual Learning

Do you think of learning as something that's done in school? Did you vow never to pick up a book again after graduating from whichever rung of the educational ladder you decided to hop off?

Think again.

Learning is a life-long practice. To keep learning as we age, we must maintain humility, a willingness to keep trying to improve ourselves.

"As long as you live, keep learning how to live. To err is human, but to persist in the mistake is diabolical."

Seneca the Younger

If you want to practice Stoicism in your daily life, you should always be ready to learn, to read, to write, and to think.

Stoic Exercises to Add to Your Routine

Now that we've looked at some of the concepts you'll want to incorporate into your daily life and decision-making let's talk about exercises you can add to your routine.

Morning Meditation

If you have the time, consider going for a walk when you first wake up and find a quiet place to sit. Bonus points if you get up early enough to watch the sunrise!

For those in a bit more of a hurry, you can practice this meditation right at home. Try to find a spot where you'll be free from distractions.

Take a few minutes to contemplate the following:

  • Practice gratitude: Say your thanks for having woken up and for the opportunity to experience the day.
  • Contemplate virtue and vice: How will you embrace your virtues today? How will you avoid your vices? Pick a particular virtue, strength, or concept that you want to cultivate throughout the day and plan how you will incorporate it.
  • Remind yourself of what you're in control of: Take a few moments to remember that your own thoughts and actions are yours to control but that external events are outside of your control.

Reflecting early in the morning can set you up for success. Even if you only have five minutes, take the time to try this out-- it'll be worth it.


Journaling is a practice that has countless benefits-- mental, physical, and spiritual.

Keeping a journal doesn't even have to be a big time commitment. Studies have found that writing in a journal three to five times a week for at least fifteen minutes can have significant benefits for your mental and physical health.

Though a journal can just become a place to jot down your thoughts and memories, it can also be a tool to help you grow and progress as a person. Everyone from Marcus Aurelius and Ben Franklin to Queen Victoria and John Steinbeck kept journals as an essential part of their practice.

As a Stoic exercise, consider journaling as a way, to be honest about where you are in your progress as a person and track how you change over time. Some things you could write about include:

  • Noting ways that you fell short of your desire to be virtuous in daily life
  • Writing how you would respond differently to circumstances you experienced in the past if they occurred today
  • Using quotes or passages as prompts for the contemplation of philosophical ideas and their application to life
  • Tracking the habits that keep you from fulfilling your purposes

For Stoic journal prompts, check out our step-by-step guide on how to journal.

Contemplation of the Sage

Wisdom is one of the Stoic virtues, and one could argue that it's the most important of the four.

The reason for this is that having wisdom allows you to know how to apply the other virtues to your life best. Wisdom, to the Stoics, was the ability to tell the difference between what is good, what is bad, and what is indifferent.

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"No man was ever wise by chance."

– Seneca the Younger

While being wise might sound nice, the truth is it's not going to happen to us accidentally. We must actively work to become wiser. At the same time, as Seneca tells us, if we at any point believe ourselves to be wise, it actually means we're far from it.

“He who seeks wisdom is a wise man; he who thinks he has found it is mad.”

– Seneca the Younger

In this exercise, contemplate the ideal person. What qualities does a truly wise individual possess? How would they act in their day-to-day life? How would they respond to some of the circumstances that are current in your life?

Another exercise you can tack onto this one is to contemplate the opposite of the ideal man or woman. What are the worst qualities and characteristics a person could have? How would they act and react throughout the day?

Negative Visualization

Also known as premeditatio malorum (the premeditation of evils), negative visualization is an easy exercise to remind yourself of how fortunate you are.

All you have to do is imagine that horrible things happen or that wonderful things don't come to pass.

Here are some examples:

  • Developing a serious health issue
  • Losing your ability to see or hear
  • Getting fired from your job
  • Losing your material possessions

This might sound like a recipe for anxiety, but taking some time to think about the worst-case scenarios can actually help you be grateful for what you have. It can help you stop complaining about all the stuff that you don't have and make use of what resources are available to you now.

Contemplate Your Fate (and Learn to Love It)

We've already touched upon the concept of amor fati above, which is a mindset described by Nietzsche in the following way:

“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.”

To use the concept of amor fati as an exercise, make a list of the worst things that have ever happened to you. This might mean your significant other leaving you, getting fired from your job, a parent dying, or any other experience you consider negative, heartbreaking, or even horrific.

“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.”

– Epictetus

Now that you have this list take notes to the side of each event about what you learned from them. Write down what has unfolded since-- how you have grown, other events that only occurred because of these initial "bad" events, and mistakes you made that you know now not to repeat. This is a great way to recognize that you grow stronger through adversity and that, ultimately, the obstacle becomes the way.

Take Plato's View

It's easy for us to get stuck looking at our lives through a microscope. We focus on the things we need to get done today, we worry about tomorrow, and we fret about what happened yesterday.

“One who would converse about human beings should look on all things earthly as though from some point far above, upon herds, armies, and agriculture, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the clamor of law courts, deserted wastes, alien peoples of every kind, festivals, lamentations, and markets, this intermixture of everything and ordered combination of opposites.”

– Marcus Aurelius

However, many of the things we fixate on don't really matter in the big picture. They're small beans. We won't even remember them in a year or two, let alone in a few decades.

For this exercise, you can take a page from Marcus Aurelius' book and practice "Plato's View" or "Taking a View From Above." This is where you zoom out and take an aerial view of the world-- imagining billions of people waking up and going to sleep, going to work, getting into arguments, falling in love, and so on. You can also zoom out across the timeline of history and picture the rise and fall of empires, the wars of man, and the changing landscape of continents, as forest turns to desert and field, turn to city.

There are two primary aspects to this exercise, which are:

  • Seeing just how small we are on a global or universal scall
  • Tapping into the reality that all of humanity is mutually interdependent-- a concept known as sympatheia

Voluntary Discomfort

For this exercise, you will purposefully put yourself in a situation that is uncomfortable.

Though it might not sound pleasant, that's the point. Practicing voluntary discomfort helps you become more resilient and teaches you to stop clinging to comfort as an ideal state.

Some of the ways you can do this include:

  • Fasting
  • Engaging in exertive physical exercise (maybe even first thing in the morning)
  • Taking cold showers
  • Sleeping outside with limited resources
  • Walking in the cold without a coat
  • Taking on a challenging task
  • Refraining from using the internet for a week
  • Walking somewhere you would normally drive

Check In With the Moment

You can sit down and deliberately meditate in order to tap back into the present moment. At the same time, it's useful to remind yourself to pay attention and be mindful throughout the day.

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.”

– Seneca the Younger

Mindfulness and meditation are words thrown around all the time on social media, self-help books, and think pieces from major publications. Don't let your preconceived notion stop you from benefitting from this exercise.

Throughout the day, stop for a minute. What are you thinking about? How does your body feel-- what sensations are you experiencing? How does the air feel?

The Stoics understood that the current moment is all that we really have in our possession. If we never stop to appreciate it, it's truly a great loss.

Meditate on Death

We all know that we'll die someday, but that doesn't mean we realize what that means.

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“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

– Marcus Aurelius

If everyone recognized the true weight of this fact, they'd probably act a lot differently daily. As humans, we can keep the truth of our death at arm's length.

The practice of memento mori (Latin for "remember that you will die") is a meditation on death. If that sounds morbid to you, then all the more reason to pick up this practice!

Meditating on the reality of your own death and the death of everyone you know can help you recognize just how brief our time is. It can help you make the most of your days and be grateful for what you have. This exercise might push you out of your state of nihilistic procrastination and encourage you to figure out your purposes and act on them.

Read and Study Daily

Finally, another important Stoic exercise is always to be learning. While this can mean reading Stoic texts, it can also mean engaging in any learning that helps you lead the virtuous life you strive for.

When you're creating your list of books to read and topics to explore, there's no need to fixate on things that the sphere of modern Stoicism has deemed worthy.

Here are just some of the types of subjects and books you might consider engaging with:

  • Biographies and memoirs of fascinating, inspirational, successful, or even controversial figures
  • How-to books that help you learn new skills and improve your environment
  • Personal development and self-help books that tackle the question of how best to live
  • Philosophy, religion, and spirituality books that dive into the fundamental questions of life
  • Novels and narrative nonfiction of all kinds, but particularly stories of incredible adversity and adventure
  • Personal finance and money management books to help you in your quest to become financially stable and perhaps even financially independent
  • Psychology and behavior books to work to increase your understanding of yourself and others
  • Historical books that help you in your "Plato's View" exercise and expand your understanding of human experience

As you embark on a life of learning, you won't ever have to worry that you'll run out of things to read and explore. Take at least a little time every day to engage with a topic that gets your mind ticking. It's amazing how your efforts will compound over the course of a lifetime!

Examples of Stoicism in Daily Life

Finally, let's take a quick look at some examples of what it might mean to be Stoic in daily life:

  • The loss of a loved one: Though losing a loved one is always difficult, a Stoic would be able to acknowledge the grief and emotions they are experiencing honestly. At the same time, they could recognize and embrace the impermanence of life and practice gratitude for the time spent together.
  • Financial obstacles: A Stoic won't spend unnecessary time being worried about a financial setback. They will recognize the reality of the situation and make a plan that they will carry out but otherwise maintain stability through the knowledge that their wealth and possessions aren't the ultimate sources of happiness.
  • Making a mistake: Whether the mistake is made at work or in one's personal life, a Stoic will be able to acknowledge their error and even be grateful for the lesson. They are more interested in what is true than being proven right.

Are you working to incorporate Stoicism into your life? Make sure you check out our Stoic Quotes blog for more resources to help you along the way!

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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