10 Stoic Rules for Life: Listen to This, They Will Prioritize You (Stoicism)

10 Stoic Rules for Life: Listen to This, They Will Prioritize You (Stoicism)

The ancient wisdom of Stoic philosophy provides powerful, practical principles for leading a virtuous life of purpose and resilience. By listening to these enduring Stoic rules for existence, we gain clarity on prioritizing each day and action in harmony with moral reason. Unlike fleeting self-help fixes, Stoicism equips us with timeless skills for self-mastery and overcoming everyday adversity with courage and tranquility.

This blog post will summarize the critical Stoic guidelines for life prioritization around exercising agency over one’s perspectives and actions. We’ll explain the dichotomy of control, managing expectations, focusing energy purposefully, embracing impermanence, and reflecting on mortality while aiming for virtue and wisdom. Our priorities align organically by internalizing such fundamental values to sustain equilibrium and fulfillment regardless of external circumstances. Read on as we examine the top 10 Stoic rules for resilience and intentional living coming from centuries of insight.

1. Differentiate Between What You Can and Cannot Control

The dichotomy of control, as explained by Epictetus, states that we should categorize everything into either what we have direct control over or what we cannot directly influence. For instance, our thoughts, attitudes, goals, and efforts are within our scope of power and agency. On the other hand, external events, the actions of others, health, fame, death, etc., are ultimately outside our control. By making this distinction, the Stoics believe we can work on the spheres of influence available to us rather than worrying about things detached from our will. This helps manage expectations and emotional reactions to the unpredictability of life.

2. Focus Your Energy on Things Within Your Influence

While we may not completely control some elements, we have varying degrees of influence. Stoicism encourages actively directing our time, energy, and resources onto anything within our influence rather than dwelling on helplessness. For example, we cannot fully control whether it rains or not, but we have some influence on preparations for the weather. We can achieve better outcomes aligned with our values by leveraging these spheres where we have agency, however limited.

3. Align Your Goals and Values to Nature and Reason

The Stoics believed that the universal logos or cosmic nature governs the world’s working through rational order. To live in harmony, they encouraged aligning our personal goals and values with this natural reason. This means pursuing virtue, justice, self-control, and exhibiting excellence of character through practical wisdom. By training our intentions and actions to be reasonable and virtuous according to nature’s design, our lives gain purpose and direction powered by internal drive rather than external pressures.

4. Manage Expectations About Outcomes

Attaching too much expectation to specific results that are not entirely under our control leads to anxiety and turbulence. Stoicism advises actively managing expectations ahead of time so we don’t get excessively troubled by outcomes we have little say over. Preparing for success and failure with stability allows us to give our best efforts without attaching to the final result. Training ourselves this way builds emotional resilience when faced with life’s curveballs.

5. Cultivate an Objective and Clear Perspective

Stoic philosophers emphasize continually striving to perceive life clearly without filters, biases, or projections. One technique they recommend is the View from Above, where we visually expand our perspective to that of the cosmos, observing life on Earth as a minor blip in infinite space. This wider lens allows a detached, objective view of events without getting overcome by temporary storms. By practicing this expanded clarity, we can prioritize responding to things appropriately.

6. Value Virtue as the Highest Good

The ultimate goal promoted by Stoicism is the lifelong cultivation of virtue and excellence of the soul. They held wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation as the four cardinal virtues that should be elevated above other temporary benefits like wealth, fame, or pleasure, which depend too much on external circumstances. By striving for moral and intellectual growth supported by convicted action, our life is powered by the stability of this inner light rather than wavering with each passing wind.

7. Accept That Change is Inevitable

Heraclitus said, “No man steps in the same river twice,” highlighting the relentless change that marks reality. Stoics accept impermanence and flux as the natural order since everything comes in and out of being through cosmic causation. We practice non-resistance and resilience by being mentally prepared and flexible to adapt to transformational events beyond human control, like aging, accidents, or death. This upholds tranquility amidst life’s unpredictable circumstances.

8. Appreciate the Present Moment

Stoics train attention on making the most of the given moment rather than getting tied to past regrets or future fears. Unlearning habit loops that chain reactions between an unchangeable past and uncertain future bring awareness to the present. Along with contemplative practices like negative visualization that reveal life’s fragility, each moment becomes saturated with depth, meaning, and true fulfillment.

9. Reflect on Your Mortality

Memento Mori, meaning ‘Remember you will die,’ is the Stoic practice of frequently reflecting on one’s mortality. Contemplating impermanence shifts priorities to pursuing virtue, excellence, and altruism in our finite time rather than getting caught up in trivialities. This sense of urgency summoned by acknowledging life’s brevity pushes us to live to our highest potential and prioritize things of true significance with complete presence.

10. Practice Voluntary Discomfort to Build Self-Discipline

Stoics regularly undertake voluntary discomforts like cold baths, fasting, and challenging field training to increase mastery over inner weaknesses that undermine resilience. Through deliberately difficult experiences and self-denial of comforts we grow accustomed to, self-control and willpower become strengthened to endure life’s obstacles. By training to thrive under austerity like a vigilant soldier ready for diverse terrains, we prepare for challenges ahead with courage.

Case Study: Applying Stoic Principles to Prioritize Life for Mark

Mark is a 42-year-old manager struggling with stress, work-life imbalance, and difficulty coping with unexpected challenges. By learning Stoic philosophical principles around the dichotomy of control, virtue, and resilience, Mark is better equipped to prioritize his perspectives and actions for greater fulfillment.

The first technique Mark implements is differentiating between controllable factors like his responses versus uncontrollable external events. Rather than fixating on company layoffs, the economy, aging parents’ health issues, or stock market volatility, Mark focuses on his continued learning, managing teams effectively, and community service.

Additionally, Mark aligns personal goals like career growth and family relationships to principles of wisdom, justice, and moderation for intrinsic direction rather than chasing external markers like fame or wealth. He also prepares for setbacks by tempering attachments to specific outcomes. This stability and non-resistance help Mark minimize anxiety about unpredictable events.

Cultivating an objective, cosmic view of reality helps Mark not get overly troubled by temporary circumstances. Regular reflection on impermanence and death’s inevitability puts daily issues in perspective and motivates striving for self-mastery with urgent intentionality.

Practicing self-denial like fasting, cold showers, and strenuous exercise builds Mark’s self-discipline to endure work pressures. By strengthening his character, applying such Stoic techniques has helped Mark gain inner resilience to life’s turbulent moments while focusing energy on virtuous priorities within his influence.

Key Takeaways

  • Distinguish between elements within your control versus ones that are not – this allows the strategic direction of your efforts.
  • Exercise your influence and agency over aspects you can control, even if limited in scope.
  • Ensure your goals and values align with reason, wisdom, and moral purpose.
  • Moderate attachment to specific outcomes, prepare for either result with equilibrium.
  • Maintain an impartial, big-picture perspective to prioritize appropriately
  • Regard the development of virtue and wisdom as the highest priority.
  • Welcome change; construct mental flexibility and hardiness.
  • Immerse in the present; recognize life’s brevity.
  • Recall mortality; ignite motivation to live fully.
  • Endure difficulty voluntarily; incrementally strengthen resilience.


In essence, Stoic tenets provide a framework for directing attention toward self-improvement, demonstrating virtues like courage and justice while releasing attachment to elements outside of one’s control. By distinguishing the spheres of influence within reach from those without, we conserve energy for constructive priorities. The ultimate goal is sustaining equilibrium, whether encountering fortunes or misfortunes, by the stability of our character.