Report on my third day of Stoic Week 2014: self-discipline and Stoic simplicity

There is a reason I’m a little late in reporting on my third day of Stoic Week 2014: the theme, self-discipline and simplicity, had me cut short my intended plan of writing and publishing my thoughts at the end of each day.

Health and self-control

Today’s reading for Stoic Week 2014 had us reflect on the importance of physical health and self-control in our daily routine.

For the third day in a row, I did a morning ten-minute sitting meditation, and noticed that my posture and breathing have improved. It took three days to notice this. It will take weeks to notice even more improvements; I know this because I’m a backslider, rather than one completely new to meditation. I imagine it must be much harder for a newcomer to adopt a practice like this where patience is required in order to experience the benefits.

I also kicked it up a notch with exercise. I mentioned in yesterday’s report that I need to do more weight training. I’m on that now. I’m making exercise a priority for the next several months in my life, at least.

I’ve still been pretty good about refraining from unhealthy snacks. On day one, I noted that my work colleague brought back snacks from his first trip to Asia and I chose not to eat any of them. I opened up the bag of chips, but ate only a couple of them (in the past I have given into temptations, when confronted with a bag of chips, to eat the whole bag) and stashed the rest away. (By the way, the chips were unexceptional, tasting not much different than ordinary American potato chips, and the ingredients list was scary, with many weird chemicals included.)


I haven’t been good with my sleep habits. I tend to stay up too late on the computer, for example. Abby wants me to have a “computer off plan” for my daily routine, but I’ve found this difficult because I like to work on personal projects (such as writing) on the computer and I find the time in the evening. I know the benefits of the “natural” life, and I’m sure Stoics would promote being a morning person.

But the point of this report isn’t to talk about becoming a morning person, or even so much about sleep. It’s about self-control. The reality is, yesterday when I came home from work, I was very tired. “Sleep when sleepy” is so logical and natural, yet I find that American culture does not value sleep. It seems countercultural to sleep.

In any case, I decided to simplify the evening and choose to stay off the computer (hence not writing this article). Apart from Wednesday evening being designed “us night” for Abby and me anyway, I decided that before sleeping, I would read (physical books and paper printouts) instead of use the computer, until ready to sleep. I did end up sleeping earlier. I did miss having the use of the computer to look up stuff that would have been helpful in my reading, but for this evening, at least, it was a tradeoff in favor of simplicity rather than stimulation. I’ll have to think about how to arrange my life differently if I want to continue to be more targeted in using the computer.


Self-discipline and simplicity are not popular in American culture, which prizes maximization and stimulation. I don’t find it easy to maintain self-discipline, and am grateful to Stoic Week to remind me of its benefits.

Is your gut impression of Stoic teachings that they want to take the fun out of your life, or that they are a guide to the truly good life? What is the balance you purposefully adopt between self-indulgence and renunciation?

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