Overcome Vices With Stoicism: 10 Stoic Tips

Overcome Vices With Stoicism: 10 Stoic Tips

Stoicism, the ancient philosophical tradition, offers a wealth of wisdom for overcoming destructive habits and unhealthy behaviors. By cultivating virtue, self-mastery, and alignment with nature, stoic practices provide practical techniques to combat personal vices. This article explores critical stoic principles alongside tangible tips you can apply to diminish vices and build better habits.

We often struggle with patterns like laziness, temptation, short-sightedness, anger, and denial, which lead us astray. And while complete perfection is unlikely, improvement is always possible. Stoicism’s pragmatic emphasis on progress through reason, discipline, attention, and acceptance offers insightful solutions. By learning to differentiate what we can and cannot control, prioritizing self-development over external things, managing our passions, and more, we develop the tools to overcome those vices obstructing our potential.

1. Live by Nature

Stoics believed that living harmoniously and virtuously aligns us with our best natural state. Vice springs from going against our innate rational and social nature. To combat vice, carefully examine and then recalibrate your thoughts and behaviors to accord with human excellence. For example, laziness contradicts human nature; instead, it sets a disciplined schedule. Or envy opposes human bonds; cultivate goodwill toward others instead.

Specific tips include:

  • Audit your habits and values – do they enable or obstruct your natural potential? Remove obvious obstructions.
  • Study virtues to clarify human excellence in relationships, work, leisure, etc. Identify 2-3 areas for improvement.
  • Make minor adjustments toward more harmonious patterns. For example, rebalance your schedule if you waste time on entertainment but neglect meaningful learning.

2. Practice Voluntary Discomfort

Stoics avoided luxury and soft living to strengthen self-control, seeing these as pathways toward vice. Inure yourself to purposeful hardship to develop essential mental muscles. For example, eat simple meals, take cold showers, or sleep on the floor periodically. Other ideas include fasting from distraction, exercising patience with frustrating people, or completing an intense athletic training session. Use minor voluntary trials to expand your resilience before facing unavoidable difficulties.

Three areas to apply deliberate discipline training include:

  • Managing physical comforts – practice periodic deprivations
  • Impulse control – resist reacting without reflection
  • Persisting at unpleasant but necessary tasks – do them with full attention

3. Differentiate Between What You Can and Cannot Control

Stoics differentiated between influences within or beyond our control, focusing solely on the former. For instance, you cannot control other people’s opinions, the weather, political outcomes, etc. But you have agency over your perspective, ethical choices, resource allocation, and habits. Apply effort exclusively to what is alterable while calmly accepting what is not. Techniques include:

  • Make a “control chart” – list external factors from your influence in one column and controllable choices in another.
  • Whenever you are anxious or frustrated by something uncontrollable, shift attention to wise action regarding what you can change instead. Discipline your focus.
  • Expand and lean into your sphere of agency rather than operating as a passive victim of circumstance.

4. Focus on Your Character, Not External Things

Stoics consider virtue, wisdom, and character development the only tangible goods, viewing external things like fame, wealth, and sensual pleasures as fleeting and morally neutral. The veneration of worldly success often breeds vice. Instead, focus on living and leading rightly, no matter your position. Specific practices that shift emphasis inward include:

  • You are cataloging all your external advantages — career, relationships, possessions, accomplishments. Then, consciously hold them lightly as transient gifts you cannot control.
  • When making decisions large and small, consult your ethical principles over profit or popular opinion. Prioritize integrity.
  • Before reacting to events, pause to check your inner state. Are you centered, courageous, balanced? Work from wisdom within, not circumstances without.

5. Manage Your Passions and Desires

Stoics saw excessive passion and desire as gateways to moral error, advocating calm self-possession instead. When you detach from volatile emotions and Needless cravings through reasoned self-mastery, vice loses its grip. Useful exercises include:

  • Notice when you act from frenzy, anxiety, excitement, or depression. Then pause, collect yourself, and let the right reason guide you instead of unstable passion.
  • Each week, strengthen mastery over a desire pulling you toward vice — perhaps greed, lust, vanity, or gluttony. Replace it with moderation and self-restraint.

6. Practice Mindfulness and Attention

Sharpening your concentration and perceptual clarity assists in overcoming vice by increasing self-awareness and wise responses. Stoic mindfulness techniques like constantly monitoring your thoughts, emotions, and actions cultivate these essential cognitive skills. For example:

  • Each hour, pause to check in with yourself and catalog what sensations, emotions, and ideas occupy your mind. Notice patterns over weeks and months.
  • Before entering triggering situations, take five deep breaths while recalling your principles to prime self-possessed behaviors.
  • When you catch your mind wandering, gently return attention to the current task to retrain your focus.
  • Set a daily timer to review and reset as needed — like a GPS recalibrating to reach your destination virtue.

7. View Events as Morally Neutral

Stoics held that the good or ill of things resides not in externals like health, wealth, and happenings but in how virtuously we conduct ourselves despite fortune’s caprices. View all events as opportunities for excellence. For example, being injured chooses your reaction — will you meet misfortune with courage, grace, and good humor, or vice and complaint? Exercises include:

  • When something “bad” happens, intentionally reframe it as neutral and meaningful instead of negative. How can this serve good?
  • Catalog blessings and advantages in any apparent misfortune — all things have positive and negative aspects. Which will you emphasize?

8. Overcome Anger and Frustration

Stoics saw anger and frustration as arising from unrealistic demands on how things “should” unfold, instead advocating clear perception and acceptance of reality. When something blocks your preferences, pause and reorient to the facts, regardless of disappointed ego. Useful techniques include:

  • Identify words like “should/must” in your self-talk and restate without them, e.g., “They made a poor choice” rather than “They must not do that!” This reduces unmet expectations.
  • Before reacting angrily, take ten slow breaths while reviewing the situation logically from others’ perspectives without judgment to increase understanding.
  • Replace anger with productive action on what you control while releasing desired outcomes beyond your influence.

9. Accept Your Fate

“Amor fati” translates to “love of one’s fate,” meaning accepting reality as it unfolds rather than fighting against the inevitable. Living in alignment with nature and events beyond your control unlocks more significant serenity and agency. Ways to practice include:

  • Identify a situation you regularly resist or regret that you cannot alter (e.g., chronic illness, a past choice, a limitation) and write about how accepting it fully could transform your perspective.
  • When struggling or denying what is, tell yourself, “I embrace this willingly,” to prime willingness over frustration—fake acceptance until it becomes authentic.

10. Progress, Not Perfection

Finally, Stoics urge ongoing self-correction rather than demanding theoretical perfection before improving. Focus on gradually enhancing character and habits over time using repeated small steps. Perfectionism often becomes an excuse for inertia. Instead:

  • Celebrate any tiny increase in wisdom, patience, courage, justice, or moderation compared to your previous capacities. Momentum beats purity.
  • When you notice yourself making excuses to avoid working on self-improvement, call yourself out on it, laugh, and take one small action.
  • Implementing even a few of these Stoic techniques and perspectives can lead to significant growth. I hope reviewing these ten tips sparks your motivation to overcome vices and build virtue using this profound ancient wisdom as a guide.

Case Study: Overcoming Vices with Stoicism

Eddy is a 32-year-old marketing manager who has fallen into destructive workaholic patterns, prioritizing career status over ethics and health. He also struggled with selfish tendencies, anger issues, overspending, overeating, and chronically low self-esteem. While externally successful, Eddy suffered from burnout, strained relationships, and lack of fulfillment.

After learning about Stoic philosophy, Eddy evaluated his alignment with human excellence and nature. He saw the excessive passion for recognition drove his workaholism at the expense of integrity and balance. He used money and possessions unsuccessfully to fill his inner emptiness. Impatience and self-criticism hurt his connections. Judging himself imperfectly, he avoided self-care.

Eddy then committed to an 8-week Stoic training program targeting growth through character development over advancement, taming passions like greed and anger through reason and moderation, cultivating self-compassion to silence his inner critic, and practicing greater empathy and generosity. He also established weekly tech-free nature time to realign with natural rhythms.

While still a work in progress, Eddy reports meaningful Vice reduction and well-being improvements from adopting a Stoic orientation. He advanced his career without ethical compromise. Identifying and channeling passions positively improved relationships. Self-criticism eased into self-directed compassion. He continues reinforcing this progress through ongoing Stoic mindset and habit work to align his work, health, ethics, and purpose.

Key Takeaways

  • Realign behaviors to match your highest human potential rather than indulging lazy, envious, or other vicious tendencies that contradict excellence.
  • Build self-mastery by periodically enduring minor, voluntary hardships and disciplines to strengthen character before facing more considerable adversities.
  • Distinguish external events outside your influence from those within your ability to alter through wise choices. Focus only on what you can control.
  • Prioritize the development of virtuous qualities like integrity, courage, justice, and moderation over chasing superficial goods like popularity, pleasure, or profit.
  • Regulate runaway emotions and excessive cravings through reason and self-restraint to avoid reactive moral errors.
  • Refine your faculty of attention to sharpen awareness and thinking before responding. Be present.
  • Interpret misfortunes as neutral occurrences holding potential for virtue rather than assign them meaning as good or bad based on ego.
  • Convert unhealthy anger about blocked preferences to acceptance of reality plus positive action on remaining options.
  • Embrace your fate, its gifts, and limitations with kindness rather than denying parts you wish were otherwise.


Implementing Stoic philosophy empowers progress over vices toward human excellence. You cultivate profound ethical living by correcting misalignments from nature’s highest potentials, strengthening reasoned self-mastery, focusing within your sphere of influence, and embracing reality with equanimity. The learning journey matters more than perfection – keep taking small steps. Staying aware of backsliding and periodically rededicating yourself sustains momentum rather than stagnation. Referring regularly to the wisdom of classic Stoic authors reinforces helpful perspectives through poetic, time-tested expression. And most importantly, approach this ongoing human optimization process with patience and compassion for your progress and lapses.