July 17, 2021 - The Stoic Gym Blog
Tag(s): Seneca || Stoic Self-help ||

How to be Tranquil: Seneca’s Sixteen

Chuck Chakrapani

[An outline of Seneca’s On Tranquility]

1. Get involved in your day-to-day affairs

One reason why we are not tranquil is that we are bored and therefore restless. Our tranquility is disturbed by our restlessness. How do you overcome boredom? Simply immerse yourself in your daily activities, both at work and at home. Something may stand in your way: you may lose your job or other things can happen. But don’t give up too easily. If a way is blocked, find another way, but always be honorable in your actions. Always stay involved.

2. Adjust yourself to your conditions

We expect things to be the same. However, this is not how life works. Sometimes you may find yourself in miserable conditions. Remember, you can be miserable in a happy place and happy in a miserable place. Therefore, adjust yourself to your circumstances. The most important thing is to be alive until you die. When you are really alive, you are tranquil.

3. Match your actions with your ability

We often overestimate what we can do. Not everyone is suited for every task. Evaluate the task at hand to see if you are up to it. Avoid tasks that are beyond your ability to complete, work that creates more work, and work you cannot withdraw from. While you can always attempt to push your limits, unrealistic expectations lead to mental disturbance.

4. Be careful in choosing your friends

Nothing delights the mind as much as faithful friendship. So, be careful in choosing your friends. However, don’t hold out for an ideal friend. There is a shortage of good people. Settle for the best among the ones available. However, avoid the miserable ones. They will drag you down.

5. Don’t go after possessions

We often think that we will be peaceful if we can have all we want. So, we go after money and possessions. But it doesn’t really work. Money causes misery. The poor worry they don’t have it and the rich worry they may lose it. It is best to live with enough money to meet our needs and not crave too much of it.

6. Live simply

Another reason for our losing tranquility is excessive indulgence. Often we are worried that we don’t have enough money. But, if you are careful about your spending, you can turn even poverty into wealth. Live simply. Avoid outward show and extravagance. Even desirable things become undesirable if taken to the extreme.

7. Handle life with skill

We all face problems. Our tranquility will be disturbed if we don’t handle them with skill. But, if we are skillful, we can face life with all its problems and keep our tranquility. Remember that no matter what misfortune you may face, its effect will not last long. Misfortunes are difficult to bear at first. But they become bearable after a while. When you face misfortunes, don’t be a burden to others but be kind.

8. Be willing to let go of whatever you own

You will lose your tranquility if you are attached to what you own. Don’t see anything as your own. Be willing to let go of anything you own — even your life — at a moment’s notice. If you are afraid of dying, you won’t do anything worthy of living.

9. Foresee misfortune

Things can change quickly no matter who you are. You can defeat adversity and misfortune if you are prepared to meet them. Foresee misfortune and be prepared. Misfortunes become hard to bear if you are unprepared when they strike you.

10. Avoid busywork

We should avoid two types of activities: Activity that has no purpose and activity with a meaningless purpose. Many people are busy with activities that have no meaningful purpose, leading to harmful things such as eavesdropping and gossiping. Direct all your energies towards some purpose and keep that purpose in sight.

11. Be prepared for disappointment

Be aware that things may not turn out the way you want them to. This will take the sting out of disappointments if things don’t turn out the way you expect them to.

12. Be neither stubborn nor indecisive

Be flexible and don’t get too attached to your plans. Things can change unexpectedly. Take them into your stride. When things change, be prepared to adapt to the change. When necessary, withdraw into yourself.

13. Take a lighter view of things

We may sometimes despair of things that are happening around us. Even so, it better to laugh at human folly than to despair of it. Take a lighter view of things. Even better, neither despair nor laugh — just do what reason asks of you.

14. Practice courage

Bad things can happen to good people. While courageous people face things bravely, cowardly people weep over their misfortune. Don’t weep over your misfortune. Practice courage and face your misfortune with courage.

15. Be yourself

Don’t pretend to be who you are not. Remember, people will criticize you, no matter what you do. Take time to be with others and take time to be with yourself.

16. Relax and have fun

Take time to relax and recharge. Walk outdoors, go to plays and other entertainments, and have a drink or two. Do everything in moderation.

The techniques described above will preserve your tranquility and restore it to you if you lose it. But, for them to work, you should be constantly vigilant.


This summary is based on
Stoic Tranquility

by Chuck Chakrapani