Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

Updated August 3, 2023

When you hear the term "Stoic mentality," you might think it just refers to someone who doesn't wear their emotions on their sleeve or complain no matter what they're going through.

However, if a person has a Stoic mindset that's informed by the philosophy of Stoicism, this isn't a suitable description in the least.

If a person works to have the mind of a Stoic by applying the principles of Stoicism to their daily life, they possess a rich worldview that can help them thrive and grow.

Let's take a look at what it would really mean to have a Stoic mindset, how to adopt one, and how it could benefit you.

What Is a Stoic Mindset?

When a person integrates the teachings of Stoicism into their day-to-day life, they could be said to have a Stoic mindset. Though this philosophical school was founded more than two thousand years ago, modern people are catching up to the usefulness of adopting a Stoic mentality.

Stoicism argues that one can achieve inner peace and contentment by living virtuously, developing self-control, and living in accordance with nature.

I know what you're thinking. Sure, that sounds easy enough when things are going your way. But what about when the sky falls?

The true Stoic is able to maintain a sense of tranquility and calm even when experiencing extreme external circumstances. The key here is that they aren't suppressing or hiding their true feelings for themselves-- they've integrated the full belief system into their life so that they are truly able to live a good life regardless of what happens to them.

Before we dive in, it's worth noting that developing a Stoic mentality isn't something that will happen overnight. The pursuit of bettering yourself and your life is one that you can engage in for the rest of your life. Changing your mindset is different than convincing yourself that you feel other than you do, so don't try to force a top-down transition. Change will come over time with discipline, study, and perseverance!

Gratitude For What You Have

Do you spend a lot of time being upset about what you don't have? Are you constantly thinking that if you just had more money, a bigger house, a better body, or even a different family then you could then be happy?

The Stoics recognized (along with a number of other wisdom traditions, I should add) that it benefits us personally to shift our focus from thinking about what we lack to being grateful for what we do have.

Seneca Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

"See how many are better off than you are, but consider how many are worse."

- Seneca the Younger

If you are struggling to shift to a perspective of gratitude, Marcus Aurelius offers excellent advice :

"Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours."

- Marcus Aurelius

Ain't that the truth? All the things you have that you take for granted, you would likely long for if they were missing from your life. Finally, remember this short maxim from the great emperor if you are struggling to tap into a grateful mindset:

"Each day provides its own gifts."

- Marcus Aurelius

Seeing Opportunity in Obstacles

What if you got excited when you met challenges instead of being shot down? What if you embraced adversity as a way to learn and grow?

This is another essential aspect of a Stoic mindset. You're going to face obstacles in life-- that's not something you can control. What you can control is how you react to them.

"The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.The impediment to action advances action.What stands in the way becomes the way."

- Marcus Aurelius

The challenges we face become a crucial part of the story of who we are. If we want to achieve great things, we will have to go through hard times.

"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness."

- Seneca the Younger

There are always going to be times when we fear we will be destroyed by what we face. Marcus Aurelius reminds us to tap back into our inner strength when circumstances knock us off our feat:

"When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance revert at once to yourself and don't lose the rhythm more than you can help. You'll have a better grasp of harmony if you keep going back to it."

- Marcus Aurelius

Facing adversity head-on doesn't mean you are free from fear. It means you're courageous despite your fear.

"The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity."

- Seneca the Younger

Taking Responsibility

A person with a Stoic mindset doesn't blame others for the things that happen to them. They see the way that their own actions created the outcome they're currently facing.

"Common and vulgar people ascribe all ills that they feel to others; people of little wisdom ascribe to themselves; people of much wisdom, to no one."

- Epictetus

Epictetus teaches us that the next level beyond blaming others is to blame ourselves.

However, that's not the last stop on the wisdom train. A true Stoic understands all events as a part of the larger network of reality-- of fate. They accept reality as it is rather than trying to pin the blame on someone to make it feel more understandable.

Exercising Compassion

Another essential component of a Stoic mindset is compassion. The Stoics believed that we are all interconnected-- we do not all live in isolated vacuums.

Marcus Aurelius Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”

- Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics place a great deal of value on helping others and being empathetic.

"I had rather never receive a kindness than never bestow one."

- Seneca the Younger

In fact, in this Seneca quote, we're reminded that we're actually benefitting ourselves when we treat others well:

"He that does good to another does good also to himself."

- Seneca the Younger

If you feel that your circumstances keep you from practicing compassion, Seneca has some more advice to offer. Anytime you interact with anyone, there is an open door for being kind.

"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."

- Seneca the Younger

Acceptance of Nature and Fate

The Stoics believed that the universe was an ordered, rational place. Not only did they believe in fate, but they thought that we must embrace and even love our fates in order to truly flow with nature.

Seneca Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

"As it is pleasant to see the sea from the land, so it is pleasant for him who has escaped from troubles to think of them."

- Epictetus

In the above Epictetus quote, we're reminded of the way it feels to reflect on adversity after the fact. Though we might not love the feeling of struggling and suffering at the time, we ultimately learn valuable lessons that help us mature and grow. Looking back upon difficult times, we often feel a sense of nostalgia that would be practically unthinkable when we were going through the event.

If we can recognize this, it can completely transform the way we see our lives and the things that happen to us. We see it as a part of a bigger picture, not just isolated incidents. We see that what happens to us is a necessary part of our story.

More Quotes About Embracing Fate:

"Man's ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy-that he live in accordance with his own nature."

- Seneca the Younger

"Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them."

- Marcus Aurelius

"Everything is the product of one universal creative effort. There is nothing dead in Nature."

- Seneca the Younger

Emotional Resilience

Being a Stoic doesn't mean suppressing your emotions, but it does mean cultivating emotional resilience.

Marcus Aurelius Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

"Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear."

- Marcus Aurelius

In the face of life's challenges, you can develop inner strength and maintain emotional balance. A person with a Stoic mindset is able to do just that.

More Quotes About Emotional Resilience

“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own inner resources. The trails we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths. Prudent people look beyond the incident itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use. On the occasion of an accidental event, don’t just react in a haphazard fashion: remember to turn inward and ask what resources you have for dealing with it. Dig deeply. You possess strengths you might not realize you have. Find the right one. Use it.”


"Here is the rule to remember in the future, When anything tempts you to be bitter: not, 'This is a misfortune' but 'To bear this worthily is good fortune.'"

– Marcus Aurelius

Virtue as the Only Good

We can't rightfully talk about the Stoic mentality without talking about the idea that virtue is the only good. A person that is a practicing Stoic will aim to act with virtue at all times, no matter how small or inconsequential a particular situation seems.

"How to act: never under compulsion, out of selfishness, without forethought, with misgivings."

- Marcus Aurelius

One can't really have a Stoic mindset without embracing the four Stoic virtues. The notions of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice must be incorporated into every decision and action.

Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection

To truly have a Stoic mindset, one must constantly be working to gain self-awareness. They must actively engage in honest self-reflection. They must work to progress in their personal development over time.

Marcus Aurelius Stoic Mentality: What is a Stoic Mindset?

“These are the characteristics of the rational soul: self-awareness, self-examination, and self-determination. It reaps its own harvest… It succeeds in its own purpose…”

- Marcus Aurelius

When you're on your deathbed somewhere down the road, what do you want to look back at your life and see? What regrets would you have if you kept going down the same path you're going?

Gaining self-awareness can be tricky-- it seems we're experts at deluding ourselves. Self-reflection can be rough, too-- it isn't always easy to honestly look at who we've been, how we've acted, and what we've done. If you can remember that your ultimate goal is to live the best possible life, though, you can storm through your resistance and get to work on bettering yourself.

More Quotes About Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection

“First off, don’t let the force of the impression carry you away. Say to it, ‘hold up a bit and let me see who you are and where you are from—let me put you to the test’...” 

– Epictetus

“In the same degree in which a man's mind is nearer to freedom from all passion, in the same degree also is it nearer to strength.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Focusing on the Present Moment

When you adopt a Stoic mindset, it means you recognize that the only thing you really have is the present moment. You learn from the past, and you plan for the future, but you don't get lost in times other than the one at hand.

“Give yourself a gift: the present moment.”

– Marcus Aurelius

If we spend our time thinking about other places we wish we were, other people we wish we were with, other things we wish we had, or other times we wish it were, we can't be happy. We have to learn to enjoy the present moment to achieve a good life.

“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. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

– Seneca the Younger

How to Adopt a Stoic Mentality

Now that we have a clear picture of what a Stoic mentality would look like, let's take a look at some of the steps you can take to get yourself there.

Watch Yourself Like a Hawk

One of the first things you'll want to start doing if you're committed to developing a Stoic mindset is to start watching yourself like a hawk.

Epictetus explains what it looks like when a person is making progress in this way:

“In one word, he keeps watch and guard on himself as his own enemy, lying in wait for him.”

- Epictetus

We might think that we're naturally rational and that we understand ourselves, but that really isn't the case. If we aren't careful, we can be driven by all sorts of emotions, beliefs, and feelings that we don't even realize are stirring around under the surface.

In order to change your mindset and your way of life, you have to understand where you currently are. For some people, adopting a Stoic mindset might mean getting started by focusing on cultivating discipline after a life of instant gratification. For others, it might mean learning to shift to a gratitude mindset after years of fixating on what they don't have.

In order to figure out where you need to go, you need to find out where you are first! Work on developing self-awareness and practice self-reflection.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

Many people walk around with what is known as a fixed mindset. This means that you think that who a person is-- their personality, their beliefs, their talents, their intelligence-- are all unchangeable.

As you might imagine, this isn't a particularly useful mentality for anyone that is looking to improve themselves.

Instead of a fixed mindset, you're going to need a growth mindset to achieve the mind of a Stoic. This means recognizing and believing that you can develop and improve your abilities, intelligence, and self through study, effort, and perseverance.

Incorporate Stoic Practices Into Your Routine

Stoicism is a practical philosophy. It isn't just a bunch of trippy ideas to think about for fun or an academic pursuit you can study to impress people with how smart you are. It's something you can actually apply to your life-- both the mundane events and the life-changing ones.

You can start incorporating some Stoic practices into your daily routine to help you on your quest to adopt a Stoic mindset. This can get you into the right headspace to use a Stoic mentality throughout the rest of the day.

Here are some practices you can implement:

  • Morning reflection: Take a few moments before the day begins to think about some of the core concepts of Stoicism. Remember to try and distinguish between what is in your control and what isn't. Consider picking a virtue that you want to focus on as you go through your day.
  • Negative visualization: Also known as premeditatio malorum, this is the practice of imagining potential losses or challenges you could face today.
  • Journaling: Journaling can be a great part of your self-reflection practice. You can reflect on times you have used the virtues to guide your actions and other times you didn't act as virtuously as you wish you had. This is also a great way to keep track of your growth over time.
  • Voluntary self-denial: Practicing going without some of the things you're used to having around can be a great way to instill a sense of gratitude. Consider going for a walk in the cold without a coat or sleeping on the floor for a night. You might also work to conquer some vices by setting goals for avoiding impulsive behavior or indulgences.
  • Meditate on death: Spend a little time each day to reflect on the reality that you will die. Think about the impermanence of life and what it will feel like to leave this world. Consider what you want to accomplish while you're alive.

For more info about Stoic practices, check out my recent post about how to practice Stoicism in daily life.

Practice Self-Reflection

Take some time every day to examine your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

- Seneca the Younger

Whether you meditate, journal, or just find a quiet space to reflect, you'll want to keep tabs on yourself as you work to incorporate a Stoic mindset.

Always Be Ready to Learn

When you truly adopt a Stoic mentality, you know that you are never done learning. There is never a point where you know everything you need to know. You are always open to incorporating new information and having new insights into the reality of life and the universe.

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

– Epictetus

In the modern world, we're all told to "fake it til we make it." We put on our "expert" hats and act like we've mastered our chosen field. The truth is, though, we always have more learning to do, no matter how much learning we've already done.

The Benefits of a Stoic Mindset

What's the point of adopting a Stoic mindset? Why would you bother going through all the trouble to have the mind of a Stoic?

Less Stress and Anxiety

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are more than 40 million adults in the U.S. alone that have an anxiety disorder of some kind. That's 19% of the adult population!

We are plagued with anxiety in the modern world, whether or not it's been diagnosed by a doctor. Even if we don't have frequent and recurring anxiety, the truth is we're stressed out.

“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”

- Marcus Aurelius

Adopting a Stoic mentality can help you reduce both stress and anxiety. By recognizing what is and isn't in your control, learning to embrace fate, and tapping into the present moment, you can lead a more tranquil life.

Reduced Attachment to Material Possessions

It's all too common to get trapped in the consumer loop in this day and age. You think you want something, no, you need something, and you do everything in your power to acquire it. You finally get it, only to find it doesn't solve all of your problems or bring you lasting happiness.

What do you do next?

So you set your sights on something else you must have.

We all know that "money doesn't buy happiness" and that material possessions won't make us happy, but we play this game anyway. Round and round we go.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 

- Epictetus

A Stoic mentality will help you reduce your attachment to things. This doesn't mean you can't buy what you need or enjoy what you have. But it does mean that you will be able to stop basing your identity and sense of self-worth on material objects or worldly affirmations.

Increased Self-Awareness

Another huge perk of adopting a Stoic mentality is that it will inevitably help you increase your self-awareness.

The more self-aware you are, the more ability you have to regulate your emotions, make effective decisions, and develop as a personality. Beyond that, it can help you improve your relationships and actually start working towards your true purposes and goals in life.

Better Relationships

Though modern Stoicism gets a bad rap for being self-centered, the truth is that the Stoic school of thought puts a huge emphasis on compassion, understanding, and empathy toward others.

"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

- Marcus Aurelius

By truly embracing a Stoic mentality, you'll likely find it helps you improve your current relationships and build strong new relationships.

Less Wasted Time

How much time do you waste, honestly? Do you head straight to the bar on Friday afternoon only to open your eyes on Monday morning? Do you use your precious time aimlessly wandering the internet, scrolling through social media, or playing video games?

When you tap into a Stoic headspace, you recognize just how valuable your time is. This doesn't mean you can't ever grab a beer with your buddies after work or play your favorite video game. But it also doesn't mean you use all of your free time to escape and disengage.

Greater Inner Peace

The primary goal of Stoicism is to achieve eudaimonia, a world that translates roughly to "good spirit," "welfare," or "happiness." The whole point of applying this philosophy is that you can achieve inner peace and tranquility no matter what is going on around you.

"Whoever values peace of mind and the health of the soul will live the best of all possible lives."

- Marcus Aurelius

Who doesn't want a little peace of mind? With a Stoic mentality, you might just get more of it than you ever imagined.

Better Preparation For Adversity

There's nothing you can do in life to avoid challenges or adversity. Even if you lock yourself in your apartment 24/7 to ensure a piano never falls on your head, the trials of life will come and find you.

The great Jim Rohn once said, "Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better." Life is hard. We can't do anything to change external events that happen to us, but we can change how we react to them and what skills we develop in order to face them bravely and successfully.

Heightened Productivity

Another reason to adopt a Stoic mindset is that you're going to start getting way more stuff done. You recognize that you have a purpose in life and that your time is valuable. You're done hanging around waiting for "something" to happen.

If you want to be more productive in your life, Stoicism will certainly help. Through a combination of self-awareness, self-discipline, adherence to the truth, and other Stoic notions, you'll find that you begin making real progress in life.

Sense of Purpose and Meaning

Finally, Stoicism can also help you find your sense of purpose and meaning in life. Lots of young people these days walk around with the idea that life is meaningless and the universe is cruel and uncaring. Stoicism can help you break through this destructive notion and tap into why you're really here.

Ready to Adopt a Stoic Mentality?

Having a Stoic mindset means, for many people, revolutionizing their worldview. It means focusing on what you can control and accepting what you can't, living in the present, trying to live virtuously, and accepting impermanence. It means practicing compassion, emotional regulation, self-awareness, and self-reflection.

Remember, a Stoic mindset isn't something that you can snap your fingers and make appear. It's not something you can order on Amazon for same-day delivery. This is a life-long process, and all you can do is start where you are!

Stoicism is a philosophy that you can apply to your life for the rest of your life. It's something that you can continue to learn about, reflect on, and use to inform what you think, believe, say, and do.

Are you searching for more resources to help you as you work to cultivate a Stoic mindset? If so, make sure you check out our Stoic Quotes blog for more insights, information, and inspiration!

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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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