Basic principles to repair the faulty and specious premises on which we base our lives and our identity.


Every habit and faculty is preserved and increased by its corresponding actions:

  • The habit of walking makes us better walkers, regular running makes us better runners.
  • It is the same regarding matters of the soul.
  • Whenever you are angry, you increase your anger; you have increased a habit and added fuel to a fire.
  • If you don’t want an angry temper, then don’t feed the habit.
  • Give it nothing to help its increase.
  • Be quiet at first and reckon the days in which you have not been angry.
  • “I used to be angry every day; now every other day; then every third and fourth day.”
  • As time goes on, the habit is first weakened and is then eventually overridden by a wiser response.

Take care not to casually discuss matters that are of great importance to you with people who are not important to you.

  • Your affairs will become drained of preciousness.
  • You undercut your purposes when you do this.
  • This is especially dangerous when you are in the early stages of an undertaking.
  • Other people feast like vultures on our ideas.
  • They take it upon themselves to blithely interpret, judge, and twist what matters most to you, and your heart sinks.
  • Let your ideas and plans incubate before you parade them in front of the naysayers and trivializers.
  • Most people only know how to respond to an idea by pouncing on its shortfalls rather than identifying its potential merits.
  • Practice self-containment so that your enthusiasm won’t be frittered away.

Rationality isn’t everything.

  • There are many domains of life to which it lacks access.
  • The greatest mysteries of existence exceed its reach.
  • Still, our reason is the best faculty we have to safeguard our integrity.
  • Most people do not understand the correct use of arguments by inference and the proper use of logical forms, so they conduct themselves in a random, overly reactive, or muddled fashion and are easily misled.
  • Clear thinking is not a bloodless art.
  • Reason’s job is to critically test our conjectures, both our interpretations and our method of arriving at them.
  • Reason is not an end but an indispensable instrument.
  • Questions are the engines of reason.
  • Thus, you need to learn how to frame questions sensibly, rather than emotionally.
  • If your ability to think is compromised, your moral life can become fuzzy and equivocal.
  • Reason can distinguish error from the truth and a deep truth from a petty one.
  • The marks of good reasoning are clarity, consistency, rigor, precision of definitions, and avoidance of ambiguity.
  • Hasten to your training in clear thinking so you can confidently enter a complex argument and not be thrown by it.

Virtue is our aim and purpose.

  • The virtue that leads to enduring happiness is not a good deed.
  • Goodness in and of itself is the practice and the reward.
  • Goodness isn’t ostentatious piety or showy good manners.
  • It’s a lifelong series of subtle readjustments of our character.
  • We fine-tune our thoughts, words, and deeds in a progressively wholesome direction.
  • The virtue inheres in our intentions and our deeds, not in the results.
  • Why should we bother being good?
  • To be good is to be happy; to be tranquil and worry-free.
  • When you actively engage in gradually refining yourself, you retreat from your lazy ways of covering yourself or making excuses.
  • Instead of feeling a persistent current of low-level shame, you move forward by using the creative possibilities of this moment, your current situation.
  • You begin to fully inhabit this moment, instead of seeking escape or wishing that what is going on were otherwise.
  • You move through your life by being thoroughly in it.
  • The virtuous life holds these as treasures: your right action, your fidelity, honour, and decency.
  • Virtue is not a matter of degree, but an absolute.

Wrongdoers need to be rightly understood to form the correct response to their behaviour.

  • The untrained response to robbers and thugs and to those who otherwise err is outrage and retribution.
  • The appropriate response to bad deeds is pity for the perpetrators, since they have adopted unsound beliefs and are deprived of the most valuable human capacity: the ability to differentiate between what’s truly good and bad for them.
  • Their original moral intuitions have been distorted, so they have no chance at inner serenity.
  • Whenever someone does something foolish, pity him rather than yield to hatred and anger as so many do.
  • We are only enraged at the foolish because we make idols of those things which such people take from us.

To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy.

  • It is incumbent that your thoughts, words, and deeds match up.
  • This is a higher standard than that held by the mob.
  • Most people want to be good and try somewhat to be good, but then a moral challenge presents itself, and lassitude sets in.
  • When your thoughts, words, and deeds form a seamless fabric, you streamline your efforts and thus eliminate worry and dread.
  • In this way, it is easier to seek goodness than to conduct yourself in a haphazard fashion or according to the feelings of the moment.
  • When you free yourself of the distractions of shallow or illusory pleasures and devote yourself instead to your rightful duties, you can relax.
  • When you know you’ve done the best you can under the circumstances, you can have a lighthearted
  • Your mind doesn’t have to moonlight, make excuses, think up alibis, defend your honour, or feel guilty or remorseful.
  • You can simply, cleanly, move on to the next thing.
  • It’s so simple really: If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
  • If you start something, finish it.

Forgive over and over and over

  • When someone speaks to you curtly, disregards what you say, or performs what seems to be a thoughtless gesture or even an outright evil act, think to yourself, “If I were that person and had endured the same trials, borne the same heartbreaks, had the same parents, and so on, I probably would have done or said the same thing.”
  • We are not privy to the stories behind people’s actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend our judgment of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding.
  • This does not mean we condone evil deeds or endorse the idea that different actions carry the same moral weight.
  • When people do not act as you would wish them to, exercise the muscles of your good nature by shrugging your shoulders and saying to yourself “Oh well.” Then let the incident go.
  • Try, also, to be as kind to yourself as possible.
  • Do not measure yourself against others or even against your ideal self.
  • Human betterment is a gradual, two-step-forward, one-step-back effort.
  • Forgive others for their misdeeds over and over again.
  • This gesture fosters inner ease.
  • Forgive yourself over and over and over again.
  • Then try to do better next time.

One of two things will happen when you socialize with others.

  • You either become like your companions, or you bring them over to your ways.
  • Just as when a dead coal contacts a live one, either the first will extinguish the last, or the last kindle the first.
  • Great is the danger; so be circumspect on entering into personal associations, even and especially light-hearted ones.
  • Most of us do not possess sufficiently developed steadfastness to steer our companions to our purpose, so we end up being carried along by the crowd.
  • Our values and ideals become fuzzy and tainted; our resolve is destabilized.
  • It’s hard to resist when friends or associates start speaking brashly.
  • Caught off guard when our associates broach ignoble subjects, we are swept along by the social momentum.
  • It is the nature of the conversation that its multiple meanings, innuendoes, and personal motivations move along at such a fast clip they can instantly shift in unwholesome directions, sullying everyone involved.
  • So, until wise sentiments are fixed into you as if they were instinct and you have thus acquired some power of self-defense, choose your associations with care and monitor the thrust of the conversations in which you find yourself.

Be suspicious of convention.

  • Take charge of your thinking.
  • Rouse yourself from the daze of unexamined habit.
  • Popular perceptions, values, and ways of doing things are rarely the wisest.
  • Many pervasive beliefs would not pass appropriate tests of rationality.
  • Conventional thinking of its means and ends is essentially uncreative and uninteresting.
  • Its job is to preserve the status quo for overly self-defending individuals and institutions.
  • On the other hand, there is no inherent virtue in new ideas.
  • Judge ideas and opportunities based on whether they are life-giving.
  • Give your assent to that which promotes humaneness, justice, beneficial growth, kindness, possibility, and benefit to the human community.
  • Examine things as they appear to your mind; objectively consider what is said by others, and then establish your convictions.

Socially taught beliefs are frequently unreliable.

  • So many of our beliefs have been acquired through accident and irresponsible or ignorant teaching.
  • Many of these beliefs are so deeply ingrained that they are hidden from our view.
  • The commonplace sluggishness of the lives lived by the undisciplined is dangerously contagious, for we are often exposed to no alternative healthful way of living.
  • Awaken and be vigilant.
  • Take stock of your habits to preserve your higher standards.
  • Many people declare with all sincerity that they are committed to their own integrity while engaging in thoughtless or intemperate actions.
  • They proceed willy-nilly, undercutting their otherwise well-intentioned efforts by failing to face themselves and to articulate a coherent personal moral code to which their future actions would conform.
  • Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do and evaluate the attendant consequences.
  • Just as we must clean, order, and maintain our homes to move forward with anything; we need to do the same with our minds.
  • Not only do we risk inefficiency by failing to do so, but we also invite our soul’s very corruption.
  • A disorganized, foggy soul is dangerous, for it is vulnerable to the influence of better-organized but unsavoury influences.
  • Trust nothing and nobody but yourself. Be ceaselessly watchful over your beliefs and impulses.

Starting is hard

  • The first steps toward wisdom are the most strenuous because our weak and stubborn souls dread exertion and the unfamiliar.
  • As you progress in your efforts, your resolve is fortified and self-improvement progressively becomes easier.
  • By and by it becomes difficult to work counter to your own best interest.
  • By the steady but patient commitment to removing unsound beliefs from our souls, we become increasingly adept at seeing through our flimsy fears, our bewilderment in love, and our lack of self-control.
  • We stop trying to look good to others. One day, we contentedly realize we’ve stopped playing to the crowd.

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