Just yesterday, I was diving back into “Atomic Habits” again. It hit me how much it vibes with “The Daily Stoic,” another favorite I’ve flipped through a bunch of times. And boom, just like that, I had to scribble down my thoughts for this article.
You’re here because you’re ready for change. You’re ready to part ways with habits that no longer serve you and welcome ones that uplift you, propelling you towards your best self.
Well, I’ve got some fantastic news for you. The wisdom you need lies in an unlikely synthesis of ancient Stoic philosophy and modern psychology.
Dive into the teachings of Stoicism, like those explored in “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, and you’ll find it brimming with timeless wisdom on self-control, ethical living, and cultivating inner strength.
Now, pair that with the science-backed strategies in “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, a book that teaches us the power of tiny, incremental changes, and we’re armed with a powerful toolkit for personal transformation.
Embrace the Small and Steady
Have you ever thought about the potency of small, consistent changes? James Clear, in his book “Atomic Habits,” emphasizes that it’s the accumulation of tiny habits that creates big transformations over time.
This aligns beautifully with the Stoic principle of endurance and consistency.
No great thing is created suddenly…Seneca
To break a bad habit, start small. If you’re spending too much time on social media, try removing the app from your phone’s home screen. Add in tiny hurdles that make it less attractive and harder to do.
On the flip side, if you’re building a new habit, also start small but make it attractive, easy, and satisfying. Say you want to meditate daily.
Set a gentle alarm as a reminder, choose a quiet and comfortable spot, and focus on the calmness you feel during and after your session.
The Dichotomy of Control in Your Hands
One of the core tenets of Stoicism is understanding what’s in our control and what’s not. Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher, reminds us to always question whether something is within our control.
In your journey of habit change, this principle means focusing on your systems, not just your goals. While goals are the outcomes you want to achieve, systems are the processes that will get you there.
You might not be able to control losing 10 pounds directly, but you can control your diet and exercise regimen. Take it from the Stoics, and focus on the actions within your reach. The results will naturally follow.
Who Do You See in the Mirror?
Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Roman Emperor, said, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
This truth ties in closely with a key message in “Atomic Habits”: our identity profoundly impacts our habits.
So, instead of just thinking, “I want to lose weight” (outcome-based), start thinking, “I am a person who lives healthily” (identity-based).
When your habits align with your identity, the change becomes more natural and enduring. Take a moment to reflect, to redefine your internal narrative, and watch as your actions start to align with the person you truly want to be.
The Four Cardinal Virtues and Habit Formation
Stoicism gives us four cardinal virtues:
3. justice, and
Each of these virtues can play a role in your habit transformation.
Consider wisdom. Wisdom helps us understand the value of our time and our actions. Harness this virtue to make better choices, to discern the habits worth keeping and the ones worth letting go.
Then there’s courage. Courage allows us to face the discomfort of change. It’s not easy to break a habit, but courage reminds us that we can weather the temporary discomfort for long-term growth.
Justice, in the context of habits, speaks to fairness to ourselves and others. Your habits should promote your well-being without negatively impacting those around you. And temperance is all about moderation.
It’s the virtue that will prevent you from going to extremes and help you cultivate balanced habits that can be sustained in the long run.
Embrace Failure As A Stepping Stone
Despite our best efforts, there will be days when we falter. On those days, it’s essential to remember that failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s a part of it.
The Stoics were big on resilience. They knew that stumbling blocks were a part of life. But as Marcus Aurelius said,
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
In other words, we learn, grow, and advance through our challenges.
So, when you falter, don’t let that discourage you. Instead, use it as a moment of reflection. Understand what led to the lapse and how you can address it. Then, get back on track, fortified with the knowledge gained from the experience.
In the end, it’s about aligning your daily habits with your deepest values and aspirations. Remember, the path to lasting change doesn’t lie in grand, sweeping actions but in the small, everyday decisions that inch you closer to the person you aspire to be.
As Epictetus said, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
Now, go forth, and begin the transformative journey of aligning your habits with your aspirations.