The Daily Stoic for today, January the 22nd. The day in review.
“I will keep constant watch over myself and—most usefully—will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil—that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.”
—SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 83.2
Stoics sit down every day to review their actions and thoughts. What they did, what they didn’t. What brought them happiness or made them sad.
It might look like a naive exercise, but actually writing down our thoughts helps us remember them.
A Pile Of Pages
Back in college, that was precisely my way of studying the most tedious subjects: writing them down. I’ve always had strong analytic skills but a weak memory for concrete dates, facts, and numbers. That’s probably why I chose science over humanities.
Thus, when I had to remember large amounts of content, I would sit down at my desk: book to my left, notebook to my right, and start writing. Sometimes I would even read aloud while I was writing.
Yes, it was a slow process, but when I made it twice per chapter, it was etched in stone in my mind. Conversely, my friends would go through the material a lot faster, but needed to review it a lot more. I don’t think my method was better, but it worked for me.
The Day In Review… Your Way
Nevertheless, the goal of writing down your day is not just remembering it. The goal is learning from our actions and thoughts, and try to extract some small lessons to apply to the following day.
You don’t even need a notebook or physically write down your thoughts on a page.
There are many ways of going through your day.
You could start a blog, and write a small post with your thoughts every day.
Alternatively, you can try meditation. I certainly do and plan on sticking to it. After my last stoic post I was considering meditating every morning before going to the gym. However, I think it makes more sense to use that time also to go through my day late at night. In that sense, stoicism and meditation really go well together.
It might seem like a day’s not that interesting or full of events, but once you start analyzing it, you become aware of lots of small details. Definitely going through it is not an empty or trivial exercise.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The day in review”, encourages us to review our days, writing down our actions and thoughts on paper. While I love that idea, I think there are many ways of doing that apart from a physical journal, like writing them on a blog or meditating about them. I plan on doing precisely the latter from now on.
Committing to write something down every day is difficult. Do you keep a diary or journal? What benefits do you get from it, apart from the pure pleasure of writing? Let us know in the comments.