Kick starting my year with focus – The Daily Stoic Journal

As part of my preparation for my Personal MBA, I am documenting my initial approach (still experimenting) and thoughts on using The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how I plan to use it to influence my thinking, stay focused and remember my why.

Stoicism is a practical philosophy for life, it is a set disciplines and principles, that if practised regularly are tools that can lead to a more peaceful, joyful and purposeful life. Unfortunately, a lot of people have limited their understanding of Stoicism to “That’s very stoic of you”, when someone is admirably admirably with a trying situation. It consequently is then, associated with trying situations. While I have read numerous resources, my application of the philosophy is still in it’s infancy.

After a week of using The Daily Stoic Journal, I’m already feeling this infancy maturing and I can highly recommend it for anyone who is wanting to focus their mind and deepen their Stoic practice in 2018.

The Daily Stoic Ecosystem

Ryan Holiday, one of my favourite digital mentors, and Stephen Hanselman are building a haven for the modern aspiring Stoic, anchored primarily in the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus.

Each resource is independent, but also complementary, so depending on what medium(s) and approach work for you different avenues can be leveraged.

The Daily Stoic Journal – My impressions

My first impression is that it is a quality print, with clear and evident thought having gone into it to make sure it is usable, for example including a bookmark, something seldom included these days.

The first few pages add some context to Stoicism, with an explanation around the  importance and value of a regular reflection practice, based around keeping a journal.

It is practical philosophy, which suits me well, as I think that without action or change, it is pointless. I might as well be watching a sitcom.

The Daily Stoic Journal – My approach

For 2018 I am still experimenting with a new morning routine. I am leveraging the fact that I have recently returned from New Zealand (opposite side of the world to London) to set an earlier wake-up time. I also recognise the Balance Fallacy and I am conscious of the risk of turning the routine into a chore, so I’m trialling 4 days a week.

I battled with consistency in reading Daily Stoic last year, attempting to do it 7 days a week made it feel like work and at times, I just went through the motions. I know that an average plan that works for me and I will do, is better than a perfect one that doesn’t. I am still trying to decide if I should double up (can stay consistent with my accountability group) or lag (perhaps, better focus and quality). Who starts on the 1st Jan?

After a few days of trialling it, I have already found the process to be a very powerful way of reflecting. My current approach is to do it in the morning, then reflect and supplement my answers in the evening or the next day. I use the questions as a trigger and choose where to aim. I have found that I am generally adapting the morning and evening to evaluate the contrary or the how (as below). Marcus Aurelius had a morning practice to set his approach for the day ahead and Seneca had an evening practice to reflect on how he could have been better during the day.

I see it as a tool, a tool designed to be used one way. I also know that a tool can we used for many things, a good tool is designed to be used flexibly, perhaps in different ways, I need to find what works for me. It is difficult to design it for everyone.

The Daily Stoic Journal – My first few days

I have found the questions are prompts for reflection and I don’t have to answer them directly.

Day 1 – What things are truly in my control? – I split this into what is (morning section) and what is not (evening section)

Day 2 – What am I learning and studying for? – I answered what and why (morning) and what is sucking my time and attention (evening)

Day 3 – What can I say no to so I can say yes to what matters? – I answered with what to say no to (morning) and how I can say no (evening)

Day 4 – Am I seeing clearly? Acting generously Accepting what I can’t change? – I answered where I am doing it (morning) and where I am not (evening)

Day 5 – What is my purpose in life? – I started with what it is not (morning) and what is the purpose

My first thought, to day 5, was wow, these aren’t warm up questions. On reflection, one key insight I had was that purpose, for me, can’t be a target or goal. It needs to be a verb/process. Measured by direction and momentum, with regular check points against inertia.

The Daily Stoic Journal – Potential Improvements?

This is tricky, it is a tool, where the simpler, the more adaptable.

  • A daily quote would perhaps be nice.
  • Perhaps not using dates. This is tricky though, an accountable date is ideal for those “on the wagon”, it keeps them on. For those that “fall off”, they might give up. Too often when designing new habits, we don’t factor in failure. Alternatively it could include both, circling which one. This is contrary to simplicity though.

Overall, I am very impressed and pleased. I would recommend it to anyone who is serious about living a more focused, purposeful and joyful life.

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