A practical guide to Stoic exercise

“A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control” by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez

Massimo Pigliucci said that Stoicism is 1 part understanding and 9 part exercise. And this is what this book is all about, a practical book designed to train us to do the latter, to live according to Stoic principles, through 52 weeks guide that is supposed to be implemented in a year.

But Pigliucci himself admitted that not everyone can commit to a year-long exercise, and I found that the book can also be as effective by learning the lessons and embodying them in just few days.

To be perfectly fair, it might be easier for me as I have read 17 books on Stoicism so far and have practiced the principles since 2017. But still, while I have pretty much covered the 1 part of understanding, the rest of the 9 part of practice is more of a lifelong habit rather than a certain milestone goal trying to be achieved.

And this is where the book comes in handy, a refresher course as well as a new practical approach for implementing them, organised so neatly and in a step-by-step manner that makes it relatively easy to follow the flow of the guided lessons.

It covers all the major Stoic principles, such as the discipline of desire, empathy and sympathy, giving yourself an advice from the 2nd person perspective (from the outside view), looking at things from the other person’s point of view, practicing discomfort, anticipating misfortune, practicing view from above, night reflections, temperance during eating, embracing minimalism, speaking little but well, and so much more.

And among the whole lot, 3 simple insights stand out from the rest for me: 1. Nobody wants to do harm on purpose 2. To understand how to properly live we need to know how the world really works and see our place in it 3. The best way to avoid temptation is to minimise exposure to the source of the temptation.

All in all, in a larger scheme of things the book could serve very well as a next step practical book, to help us implement the 9 part of exercise after we’ve done with the 1 part of understanding.