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From Vol. 5, Issue 3, March 2023

Journal Like a Stoic

Book Review || Chuck Chakrapani

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You can get a lot out of Stoicism. But to get a lot out, you have to put a lot in. “Living by Stoic principles takes discipline and introspection. In other words: it’s hard work. To get something out of this process, you need to put a lot into it,” says Brittany Polat. To help us progress in our work, Britttany has written a new book, Journal Like a Stoic. Consider it as a roadmap to get started on your Stoic journey.

How is the book structured?

The book is structured as a 3-month course in Stoicism:

Course A: Examining the inner critic. Here you learn to cultivate clarity and courage as you develop a healthier relationship with your own mind.

Course B: The road to acceptance. This part teaches you to fully embrace your life, adapt to new challenges, and discover profound acceptance of our beautiful, unpredictable world.

Course C: Living with virtue. This part strengthens your newfound wisdom with a greater sense of purpose and peace, tapping into your inner capacity for strength and kindness.

What is in this book?

The book starts with a brief outline of the basic Stoic principles: The three areas of Stoic inquiry (Logics, Physics, and Ethics), and the four virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance). Then it gives a high-level overview of ancient Stoic thinkers from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius.

Then you start working on your journal.

For each of the 90 days, Brittany starts with a quote from one of the three Roman Stoics: Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. She adds a brief commentary to the quote and asks a couple of questions/statements for you to think about. Your job for the day is to mull over the Stoic quote and then respond to the issues highlighted by Brittany. There is at least one full blank page for each day for you to keep your daily journal.

(If you would like to take a peek into the book, please see THE STOIC, January 2023 issue, which includes extracts from the book.)

How well does it cover Stoic principles?

No two Stoic practitioners are likely to agree on quotes that summarize Stoic principles the best. So let me rephrase the question. Do the quotes in the book summarize Stoicism well? Assuming that our interest is in Stoic ethics rather than Stoic physics or Stoic logic, this book is an excellent summary of Stoic principles.

The value of Journal Like a Stoic is that it forces you to think about some of the profound Stoic teachings. The comments that follow the quotes are designed to focus your attention even more to their significance. Finally, writing your thoughts on the subject makes it relevant to your life. The quotes are not impersonal anymore, it is guide for living your everyday life.

Brittany closes the book with this observation: “the close of this course not as an ending, but as a new beginning. You have everything you need to flourish. You’ve cleared the ground and planted the seeds for a life of wisdom and fulfillment. How well you tend to those seeds is up to you.”

Yes, indeed. Stoicism is a lifelong journey, not a 90-day journaling course. The course lays down a strong foundation to build upon and it is for the reader to continue of the journey.

What else should you know?

To get the most out of the book the author says that you should proceed in order because the book goes from simple to complex ideas. The more consistent your way, the more beneficial journaling will be. Don’t be brief but fill in the empty spaces provide for journaling. Make journaling a ritual to prepare your mind for serious introspection. In short, to get the most of journaling, take it seriously!

Should you read it?

You should absolutely read the book, especially if you are looking to start your journey but not sure where to begin. The 90 quotes chosen by Brittany cover many of the important aspects of Stoic ethics and her commentary creates focal points for us to ponder. Journaling is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it yours you can’t go wrong with this book.