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The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living Hardcover – November 14, 2017
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About the Author
Stephen Hanselman has worked for more than three decades in publishing as a bookseller, publisher and literary agent. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, where he received a master's degree while also studying extensively in Harvard's philosophy department. He lives with his family in South Orange, New Jersey.
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I am thoroughly enjoying the reflective questions that The Daily Stoic provides. Sometimes, I can answer the questions right away and other times I may write "I'll get back to this one" so that I can reflect on it as I don't always have an immediate answer. I have written all of this to encourage others to give this book a try. It is 365 days of thoughts and reflections that are not always comfortable to face, but I think it is worth it.
Ryan, I have 2 practical suggestions. The lack of bulk of the journal is a plus, however it is too small and cramped for most people's handwriting...and given the fact that "millenials" et al have terrible script, it is challenging to add entries. I feel it should a) leave somewhat larger spaces for journal entries, and b) be in a lay-open format making it more inviting to write in.
I’ve recently discovered journal prompts in online journal/blog communities, exploring a more structured and deliberate way of writing about my experiences. I've worked with these on and off for a little while now, but for some reason, nothing has really taken hold. The prompts are like "Describe the time when you first fell in love" or "What is the most valuable object you've inherited?" I mean, get it, they are meant to prompt you to just start writing with the idea that at some point, you will write about what's really important to you. But those prompts seem superficial and are often uninspiring. Because what is important to me is figuring out why I do/think/feel the way I do, how predictable those actions/thoughts/feelings are, how those actions/thoughts/feelings have changed over time, and how I should act and decide things right now and going forward.
I have been reading The Daily Stoic this past year. When I got the promotional material for The Daily Stoic Journal, and checked out the sample pages, I ordered it immediately. The few questions that I read in the sample resonated, and on November 19, upon receiving my book in the mail, responded to the question: "Will I accept the situation and still fight to do and be good?" I created a Word document on my laptop and named it "A Stoic Journal 2017-2018." I typed out the question and starting typing a response. In 20 minutes I had written just under 1000 words, describing a challenging period of my life when I felt I was being intimidated and accused of wrongdoing. I had written (complained) about this unwanted situation previously, but this prompt helped me to write about it in a focused way that made a lesson out of it for me, encouraging me to look for how I fought to do and be good in spite of being wrongfully accused. It helped me to accept what I had been through and that it actually was an opportunity to learn something new about myself and make me stronger. I have responded to the journal prompts in The Daily Stoic Journal almost every day since and it's my goal to continue throughout the year.
If you are interested in learning more about yourself and the lessons that you can teach yourself through your own life experiences, I highly recommend this practice!
Top international reviews
Firstly, it has been an excellent introduction to journalling. It’s something that I’ve been aware of for some time, and had actually decided to do more recently, yet months had passed and I had still not made any progress. Luckily this book came out at a time when I had renewed my interest in the practice. I currently leave it on the desk near my bed so I always pick it up in the morning and before going to sleep, it has been relatively easy to make the daily entries except for on the odd occasion when I was pressed for time.
Secondly, and perhaps most obviously it has helped with the practice of stoicism (I'm using it alongside the Daily Stoic book - although the journal can be used standalone). Sometimes the reflection or quote just hits the mark, it’s application becomes obvious as you encounter something during the day, or it helps you to think in a better way about something that has been troubling you.
The third benefit is slightly more nebulous but I’ll have a go at explaining it. The daily entries encourage reflection (I should also say that I practice mindfulness meditation) and within these you somehow begin to refine your thoughts.
Perhaps you you occasionally feel bad about something, or don’t behave as you’d like to, but you don’t really know what’s going on, and you just kinda forget about it and then it happens again, but theres no real reason. Sometimes you pay attention to it, sometimes you don’t. This could be something that really troubles you, or just something relatively petty, but you know something is not quite right… But once you start paying attention, and start thinking, and start writing, and asking questions, you begin to chip away at whats there, its just a kind of background process, you’re not actively working on it, but you’re asking the right questions... And then it clicks, it could be a few things that come together that explain it, and the answer seems so well articulated that you’re surprised you came up with it. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
Anyway I highly recommend this book, its a great way to get into the habit of journalling, with all the benefits of stoic thinking.
Here are my worst examples:
-am I sizzle or steak?
- are you praying--or *demanding*? (Yeuch)
- am I keeping watch?
- is change really so bad? Is the status quo really so good?
- what if I didn't have an opinion about this?
Not terrible; just bland, shallow and uninspired, although I expect the experience is better with the companion book.
I began writing on 1st January as suggested, and by May I had begun a parallel journal (based on a plethora of personality inventories, a series on self-reliance and a series with more emotive and open questions) and it's highlighted to me the the failings of the Stoics and also why this philosophy is so popular in the West. There are many similarities to Buddhism and Abrahamic faith, and it is nearly as obsessed with death and inner emptiness as either of these. If you need an example of why the Stoics are not a fountain of human genius, go read an account of how Seneca died.
If the stiff-upper-lip and obsessive reliance on rationality are your thing, you'll love this journal. If you want to connect with your authentic self and develop your intellect and imagination, I'd recommend buying a fancy blank book and collecting questions from everywhere you can find them, curating your own journalling experience and even mixing in some creative writing drills.
I expect this is obvious to some people but it took me a painful 5 month slog to figure it out. I'm still glad I bought the journal but this philosophy just isn't for me.
There is a four or five page introduction which is divided into a general introduction about stoicism and a two and a bit direction on how to use the journal best. There is an excellent bibliography and references, after a fashion, included also at the end of the book, I found this interesting because it goes beyond the "usual suspects", such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus, mentioning Publilius Syrus, who I previously had not heard of prior to reading this reference.
This selection of sources both interested and surprised me, prior to its inclusion the main reference was to the Daily Stoic book, which is a good read from the same author and planned as a companion volume, this selection includes a more than one reference for or about individuals who have applied Stoicism in circumstances similar to those of the original stoics, ie conditions of war, immanent death or maiming, low intensity conflicts.
This is a nice hardback bound notebook besides, it also provides enough space for making a note, more than some smaller "single line" or "one sentence a day" journals, its not full blank pages though so you have to consider what you plan to write, and it contains pages for each day of the year. Allowing the collecting of a years worth of notes and reflections. It also provides a format, like plenty of these journals do, which you can continue to use once you have filled the book and having filled the book its likely the format will remain memorable and the habit of making reflective notes AM and PM stick after that time.
In the past I've kept a small hardback edition of Seneca's Letters of Stoic in order to read a chapter a day and I have kept reflective journals, personally and professionally for a couple of years now, also I've kept journals of responses to prompt questions (either provided in books such as "If" and "If: Questions for the soul" or online generators) in the past, this Journal combines all these activities in a single place. Recommended.