Book Review: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - by William Irvine


A modern update of the Greek/Roman Stoic Philosophy.

My notes

Find delight in your own resources, and desire no joys greater than your inner joys.

Why is self-discipline worth possessing? Because those who possess it have the ability to determine what they do with their life.

The Stoics enjoyed whatever “good things” happened to be available, but even as they did so, they prepared themselves to give up the things in question.

The Stoics were not stoical!

You rob present ills of their power if you expect them. Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.

We’re unhappy because we’re insatiable. After working hard to get what we want, we lose interest in the object of our desire.

The easiest way to gain happiness is to want the things you already have.

Spend time imagining that you have lost the things you value - that your wife has left you, your car was stolen, you lost your job. Doing this will make you value your wife, your car, and your job more than you otherwise would.

As we go about our day, periodically pause to reflect on the fact that you will not live forever and therefore this day could be your last.

Think about how you would feel if you lost your material possessions, including your house, car, clothing, pets, and bank balance. How you would feel if you lost your abilities, including your ability to speak, hear, walk, breathe, and swallow; and how you would feel if you lost your freedom.

You are living the dream you once had for yourself. Married to the person you once dreamed of marrying, have the children and job you once dreamed of having, and own the car you once dreamed of buying.

You are living in what to your ancestors would have been a dream world. You take for granted things that your ancestors had to live without.

An optimist sees his glass as being half full. For a Stoic, this degree of optimism would only be a starting point. After expressing his appreciation that his glass is half full rather than being completely empty, he will go on to express his delight in even having a glass: It could, after all, have been broken or stolen. And if he is atop his Stoic game, he might go on to comment about what an astonishing thing glass vessels are: They are cheap and fairly durable, impart no taste to what we put in them, and-miracle of miracles!-allow us to see what they contain.

There is a difference between contemplating something bad happening and worrying about it. Contemplation is an intellectual exercise. Conduct such exercises without affecting your emotions.

The key to having a good life is to value things that are genuinely valuable and be indifferent to things that lack value.

Any time and energy spent on events you can’t control will have no effect on the outcome of events and will therefore be wasted time and energy.

Set internal rather than external goals.

Internalize your goals. Make a goal not to change the world, but to do your best to bring about certain changes. Even if your efforts prove to be ineffectual, you can rest easy knowing you accomplished your goal: You did what you could do.

Be fatalistic with respect to the past and present. Refuse to compare your situation with alternative, preferable situations in which you might have found or might now find yourself.

Be attentive to all the advantages that adorn life.