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Ian O'Byrne

There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question. - Carl Sagan In TL;DR - Subscribe at #naivete


Ian O'Byrne

Living in agreement with your personal nature

2 min read

In an earlier post, I provided some guidance on how to have a good life and be happy.

These materials are influenced by my reflections as part of Stoic Week 2016. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

In this post, and my earlier post on examining your impressions, there is an understanding that you should regularly and iteratively review and problematize your assumptions. 

To help you in this capacity, the following exercise detailed below is adapted from the guide from StoicWeek 2016.

First, use these questions to clarify your core values:

  • What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?
  • What do you want your life to ‘stand for’ or ‘be about’?
  • What would you most like your life to be remembered for after you’ve died?
  • What sort of thing do you most want to spend your time doing?
  • What sort of person do you most want to be in your various relationships and roles in life?

In examining the fourth bullet point, you might consider your role as a parent, friend, at work or in life generally. You could also ask how far your own core values match what the ancient Stoics meant by ‘virtue’, especially character traits such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

Second, look at all your answers to the first set of questions and ask how far your real actions on a day-to-day basis match these core values. If they do not match completely, think about ways in which you could bring the two closer together. Keep in mind that you're not assessing or evaluating how much these two match or disagree. You're just trying to understand yourself.

Think of one specific activity you could be doing that would help you develop towards expressing your core values or which would enable you to express them fully.

Finally, this exercise could be part of a daily journaling process as you start your day.



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Ian O'Byrne

How to have a good life and be happy

2 min read

On the fourth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to clarify our selection of vritues in our life and actions. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

Today's reflection comes from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.6:

If you find anything in human life better than justice, truthfulness, self-control, courage... turn to it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found...but if you find all other things to be trivial and value less in comparison with virtue give no room to anything else, since once you turn towards that and divert from your proper path, you will no longer be able without inner conflict to give the highest honour to that which is properly good. It is not right to set up as a rival to the rational and social good [virtue] anything alien its nature, such as the praise of the many or positions of power, wealth or enjoyment of pleasures.

In this he is suggesting that philosophy, or the love of wisdom, primarily centers on the core virtues of wisdom, justice, moderation, and courage. We should value these virtues in our own behaviors and those of others. 

We only need to focus on these aspects to have a good life, and experience genuine fulfillment. In short, to have a good life, be a good person.

You might ask yourself about the other things we use to measure how good and happy we are. What about health, family, personal wealth, and property? Surely the new phone, or a shiny car will improve my quality of life.

The stoics believe that the four virtues are a complimentary set that allow us to live well, deal with others, manage emotions and desires. These four virtues are:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Justice
  • Temperance

These four virtues are an ideal and something we should strive for each day. If you have focus on these four in your interactions throughout the day, and your life, everything else will work itself out. 


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Ian O'Byrne

By three methods we may learn wisdom. - Confucius

Ian O'Byrne

In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration. - Ansel Adams