7 Habits to Become a Highly Virtuous Stoic

7 Habits to Become a Highly Virtuous Stoic

Stoicism has seen a resurgence in recent years as more people seek timeless wisdom on achieving fulfillment. The ancient philosophy emphasizes developing virtues over values, self-mastery through discipline, contributing to others through service, and appreciating the brevity of life. Even today, we can live more virtuous lives by studying the core principles of Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus.

This article outlines seven essential habits to become a highly principled Stoic – from differentiating virtues from societal values to practicing mindfulness and presence, pursuing self-betterment through excellence, serving humanity with compassion, and contemplating mortality to appreciate life fully. Implementing just a subset of these habits and insights can set you on the path to serenity, wisdom, and deeper fulfillment.

1. Understand the Difference Between Virtues and Values

Stoicism places great emphasis on developing virtues over values. Values are societal beliefs and opinions about what is good, desirable, or worthwhile. They tend to change over time based on cultural trends. Conversely, virtues are core universal qualities of moral excellence that the Stoics identified – wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. Determining your virtues daily is a crucial habit regardless of changing societal values.

2. Learn the Core Principles of Stoicism

The foundations of Stoic philosophy include living logically and rationally, accepting what you cannot change with wisdom, pursuing self-control and mastery over destructive emotions, finding purpose through service to others, and overcoming negative passions. Studying the ancient Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus provides timeless insights that still apply today on how to live a good life.

3. Practice Mindfulness and Living in the Present

A core habit of Stoics is to live mindfully in the present moment, neither dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps train your mind to be aware of each experience as it happens. Avoid getting caught up in assumptions, emotions, memories, or distractions. Stay grounded in the here and now.

4. Focus on What You Can Control

An important realization in Stoicism is distinguishing clearly between what is within your control and what lies outside of it. Work on your thoughts, values, and actions rather than expending energy trying to control external outcomes. Let go of the desire for fame, status, wealth, or insistence on events going a certain way. Just focus on managing your response.

5. Pursue Self-Mastery and Excellence

Cultivating self-discipline and striving for arete (excellence, mastery, and being the best version of yourself) is emphasized. Seek continuous self-betterment in all areas of life through effort and overcoming weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to others; focus on self-improvement. Develop grit and resilience.

6. Help Others Through Service and Compassion

Contributing to the greater good of humanity through practical service and compassion is part of Stoic practice. Participate in society as a responsible, cooperative citizen. Treat others with kindness, empathy, honesty, generosity and benevolence. Our bonds of community give life more profound meaning.

7. Reflect on Death to Appreciate Life

Regularly contemplating your mortality, rather than avoiding the notion, helps you not take life for granted. Remember that death could come at any unexpected time. Keeping that in mind leads to appreciating every present moment. Don’t waste time on trivialities or perpetually postponing what matters. Make each day count.

Case Study

John is a 42-year-old office worker who has recently felt unfulfilled and anxious. He decides to learn about Stoicism to seek more purpose and serenity.

  • He starts differentiating virtues from values. John realizes excelling at work and accumulating wealth are more societal values than true virtues. Instead, He focuses on cultivating wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance.
  • Studying Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, John learns the core Stoic principles of logic, acceptance, self-control, service, and overcoming emotions. He applies them by dealing with challenges calmly and rationally.
  • John practices mindfulness meditation, noticing when his mind wanders to past regrets or future worries. He learns to re-focus on the present moment.
  • He focuses on controlling only his reactions, not external outcomes. When projects at work don’t go as planned, John works on responding productively rather than blaming others.
  • John pursues self-mastery by starting a morning exercise routine, overcoming his tendency to hit the snooze button. He finds fulfillment in self-improvement.
  • He starts volunteering at a homeless shelter, realizing serving others gives life meaning. John treats everyone there with compassion.
  • Finally, John reflects on death occasionally to appreciate each day more fully. He wastes less time and prioritizes what matters most.

John feels more virtuous, purposeful, and appreciative of life in just a few months. Simple Stoic habits have improved his outlook significantly.

Key Takeaways

  • Differentiate virtues from values. Virtues are moral excellence; values are societal beliefs.
  • Learn Stoic principles: logic, acceptance, self-control, service, and overcoming emotions.
  • Live presently through mindfulness, not past/future thoughts.
  • Control your responses, not external outcomes.
  • Seek self-mastery and excellence, not comparison.
  • Serve others with kindness and compassion.
  • Contemplate mortality to appreciate life.


Stoicism provides timeless wisdom on achieving virtue, self-mastery, and fulfillment. By differentiating virtues from fleeting values, practicing presence, controlling your reactions, pursuing excellence through self-discipline, contributing to others, and reflecting on the brevity of life, you can live a moral existence aligned with the ancient Stoics. This path leads to serenity, wisdom, and appreciation of the human experience at a profound level. Implementing just a few of these insights and practices can set you on the road to becoming a highly virtuous Stoic.