How to Be Steady

“The essence of good is a certain kind of reasoned choice; just as the essence of evil is another kind. What about externals, then? They are only the raw material for our reasoned choice, which finds its own good or evil in working with them. How will it find the good? Not by marveling at the material! For if judgments about the material are straight that makes our choices good, but if those judgments are twisted, our choices turn bad.”


I had to read the quote from today’s entry in The Daily Stoic many times. And then I had to read it again, and again. Nope, still didn’t get it.

Thankfully, the author Ryan Holiday broke it down for me. He reminded me that stoics are always seeking how to be steady in their practice. They’re always looking for that moderation, for that equilibrium. And so the question is: how to achieve that, how to get that steadiness of hand and mind when navigating life and trying to make good choices. It’s what the stoics called ‘eustatheia‘ — steadiness, stability, and tranquility.

The answer is that it is our judgment which helps us to keep that even, steady keel. Most of life’s events are beyond our control; they just happen, and often suddenly. We don’t have the ability to directly influence those events, but we can use our judgment to respond to them in ways that demonstrate our calm, reasoned choice.

That is how you stay steady in the middle of a raging storm — you can’t run away from life, but you can take refuge in your inner citadel, your rational fortress. You can use your judgment to keep your choices clear and good, as you sail onward.

(Part 2: How to Be Unsteady, if you’re into that)

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