Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for Stoic Week - How to use Donald Robertson's Stoic Self-Monitoring Form

Tomorrow is the start of Stoic Week, and now is the time to do the questionnaires and read the first few pages of the handbook.
It's also a good time to begin Stoic Self-Monitoring

Donald Robertson has created an excellent form in his recommended book, Stoicism and the Art of Happiness to help you do this and it explains in the booklet how to use the form.  I thought it would be useful to give some (hypothetical) entries.

Stoic Self-Monitoring Record Sheet 
Instructions: Use this sheet to record your thoughts, actions, and feelings in challenging situations. As soon as you notice troubling emotions or desires arising (called “passions” in Stoicism), pause and take a step back from the initial “impression” (or thought) underlying them. Then ask yourself whether the thing you’re becoming upset about is actually under your control (“up to you”) or not. Also try to record your actions, their consequences, and whether they were actually beneficial or not.

Below is an illustrative examples which shows how to do the sheet and also how useful Stoic self-monitoring can be!

Briefly describe the situation.
Feelings (Passions)
Include early-warning signs.
Thoughts (Impressions)
Particularly those causing feelings.
Is this “up to you” or not?
Were they beneficial?
1.  Driving to work, car blocking my way to get onto roundabout
Early sign, clenched teeth, “should”
That’s so inconsiderate! Don’t they realise they are blocking me!
Not up to me at all
I swore under my breath, just got me upset, did no good
2. Interview tomorrow
Anxious, worried
“What if thoughts”
Feeling tense
“What if they ask me questions I cant answer?”
Image of myself looking stupid
What they ask isn’t up to me.
However I can prepare for the interview
Decided not to worry but instead to spend half an hour researching the company which was useful
3.Don't get a reply to my email to friend
Concerned about friendship
They obviously aren’t as interested in the friendship as me
They don’t like me
I can't make everyone like me
I can't control what other people do
I can control my response.
Dwelt on it for a while which made me feel worse
Then remembered this Stoic monitoring and just let it go “what will be, will be”

Let's look at the three example entries above in a bit more detail.

In the first example the writer now realises that his angry thoughts about the other driver was about what is not "up to me" and it wasnt beneficial, it did no good, just got him upset. This entry can feed into the evening Stoic meditation where we reflect on what we have done well and less well. The writer would reflect that next time they felt the first impulse to get upset about a driver, they would remind themselves that what the driver did was not under his control and so would not get upset about it.

The second example is about anxiety and illustrates how a lot of it can be about what we can't control - so no point worrying about it. However I can control how much preparation I do, so that's where I should focus my energy. In this case doing the entry helps me change what I do, so in my evening meditation I can say "job well done".

The third example is about sadness, and this is a more mixed example. The writer does ruminate for a while, but then realises that this is pointless and is able to let it go.

I hope these examples illustrates the usefulness of the form -  have a go at using it and let me know how you get on. You can also blog about your experiences in Stoic Week at

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stoic Week Next Week - why not join in?

Next week is International Stoic Week.

Stoic Week is an annual opportunity to practise some useful elements of Stoicism in our lives, each day, for a week.  At least 10 minutes a day commitment is required. No previous knowledge or experience of Stoicism is required.

For those who weren't in on this last year, Stoicism is the ancient philosophy that was the inspiration behind CBT. Practising it is in many ways akin to practising mindfulness, and for those of you already doing that this may be a useful supplement. The focus in Stoicism is on what you can control, what you can change - and to not hit one's head against a brick wall trying to change the things you can't.
For example. if you are stuck in a traffic jam, you can't change the fact that the traffic isn't moving. You might be able to change your attitude to it. You can practise some slow breathing, maybe let the people you were meeting know you were late, plan to leave earlier or an alternative route next time.

In Stoicism, this goes further to saying that we by changing our attitudes we can feel less negative emotions.  The Stoics also say that we can aim to be a good person, this is under our control. The happiness research (and our own research on Stoicism) suggests that being a good person - for example random acts of kindness - will also make us happier.

If you are interested in taking part, then please visit and
There also a Stoic event in  London on Saturday 29th November
There are still a few places left for the London event. You can sign up for that at

You dont have to know anything about Stoicism - anyone interested in learning about some techniques to help us stay calm and be happy and able to commit to some daily practice for a week may find this useful.

Live Wisely!