Book Notes – A Guide to the Good Life

Some highlights from reading A Guide to the Good Life.

Book Cover of A Guide to the Good Life

To be virtuous, then, is to live as we were designed to live; it is to live, as Zeno put it, in accordance with nature.

Be “the user, but not the slave, of the gifts of Fortune.”

And a good technique to start with, I think, is negative visualization.

After mastering negative visualization, a novice Stoic should move on to become proficient in applying the trichotomy of control, described in chapter 5.

…as part of becoming proficient in applying the trichotomy of control, to practice internalizing your goals.

…in conjunction with applying the trichotomy of control, to become a psychological fatalist about the past and the presentbut not about the future.

…respond to this insult in a Stoically acceptable manner, with self-deprecating humor:

Instead of letting myself be angered by events, I persuade myself to laugh at them. Indeed, I try to think of ways the imaginary absurdist playwright could have made things still more absurd.

Yoga has been a wonderful source of voluntary discomfort.

Another source of discomfort—and admittedly, of entertainment and delight as well—is rowing.

Whenever you undertake an activity in which public failure is a possibility, you are likely to experience butterflies in your stomach.

When doing things to cause myself physical and mental discomfort, I view myself—or at any rate, a part of me—as an opponent in a kind of game. This opponent—my “other self,” as it were—is on evolutionary autopilot: He wants nothing more than to be comfortable and to take advantage of whatever opportunities for pleasure present themselves. My other self lacks self-discipline; left to his own devices, he will always take the path of least resistance through life and as a result will be little more than a simple-minded pleasure seeker. He is also a coward. My other self is not my friend; to the contrary, he is best regarded, in the words of Epictetus, “as an enemy lying in wait.”

To win points in the contest with my other self, I must establish my dominance over him.

The Stoics, as we have seen, recommend simplifying one’s lifestyle.

My time is coming, I told myself, and I must do what I can to prepare for it.

Then it dawned on me what utter foolishness it would be to do anything other than embrace them. And so I have.