Vices Are Their Own Punishment

“Therefore, explain why a wise person shouldn’t get drunk — not with words, but by the facts of its ugliness and offensiveness. It’s most easy to prove that so-called pleasures, when they go beyond proper measure, are but punishments.”


To prove to yourself why you should avoid certain harmful behaviors, don’t focus on words or theory to make the case. Instead, remind yourself of the results of doing the behavior — that should be proof enough, as Seneca reminds us in today’s quote in The Daily Stoic.

Focus on the facts, the effects. Highlight to yourself how you will feel after doing the unwanted behavior, and what it will do to you. Ponder how it will affect you physically and emotionally, and how it will affect your goals. Think about the lame excuses you’ll have to give yourself.

To use an example: if you’re trying to quit smoking cigarettes, don’t bother trying to convince yourself that nicotine is harmful and that you’ll get lung cancer. If those words haven’t swayed you yet, they’re not going to sway you now.

Instead, think about how your stomach is going to feel after you have that next cigarette, how your mouth is going to taste. Think about how your energy is likely to be sapped as a direct result. Remind yourself that you’ll likely feel down in the dumps after surrendering yet again, and that you’re going to feel deflated about your lofty goals of quitting forever. You’ll be tempted to beat yourself up (it won’t help though).

Vices are their own punishment. You don’t need logic or fancy wordplay — the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The negative effects are obvious.

“Pleasures” are often anything but. You don’t need to say they’re ‘wrong’ to convince yourself to stop. Just look at the effects and it will be clear why you should.

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