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The Discipline of Action: Building Stoic muscles

Sometimes it feels like a lot of Stoic teachings are telling us what not to do. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Don’t get upset when someone doesn’t like you. Don’t love your fancy expensive car. Don’t become obsessed with poverty and wearing potato sacks. Don’t brag about your progress. Don’t get too comfortable with Fortune.


In order to change our behaviors, it’s not enough to know what we shouldn’t be doing. We need to know what we’re aiming for!

I’ve been interested in training dogs since I was a little girl, and one of the key things in changing a dog’s behavior is to simply teach the dog what you specifically want it to do. This avoids a lot of confusion from the dog not knowing exactly which behavior it should be doing, and therefore grasping at straws (if dogs had thumbs) and floundering to try any behavior. (You told me I shouldn’t poop on the couch, so I pooped on the rug instead. Oops.)

Enter: the discipline of action. This is the part of Stoicism where they say “Do this!” The direction this discipline goes might also be surprising.

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