These Are Things Stoics Don’t Waste Time On (Pt. 1)

Marcus Aurelius talked about how when you know the things you shouldn’t waste time on, you get more time for the things you should spend time on. “Which brings a double satisfaction,” he writes, “to do less, better.” So this weekend, we are going to focus on those things a Stoic doesn’t waste any time on. We will do this in two parts. Part 1 today. Part 2 tomorrow. Let’s get right into it: here are the first 3 things Stoics don’t waste time on…

Don’t waste time worrying about other people’s opinions.

Marcus talked about the strange contradiction: we are generally selfish people, yet, more than ourselves, we value other people’s opinions about us. “It never ceases to amaze me,” he wrote, “we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”

One of Stoicism’s fundamental principles is that we focus only on the things that are within our control. Other people’s opinions are emphatically not within our control. Don’t spend any time worrying about what other people think.

Don’t waste time criticizing.

When Confucius heard that a fellow philosopher was criticizing one of their peers, he replied, “What a worthy man that Zigong must be! As for me, I hardly have time for this.”

Both Eastern and Western philosophy share that same belief—that our focus should be on our own behavior, not on the behavior of others. In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius speaks to this idea over and over and over again: Look inward, not outward. Don’t meddle in the affairs of others. Remember when you have acted like that, he says, when you see someone acting objectionably.

The Stoic does not have time to criticize others because they have too much to improve on at home.

Don’t waste time arguing with reality.

When James Stockdale was asked who struggled the most as a POW, Stockdale said it was those who deceived themselves, who tried to avoid the brutal facts of their reality.


No amount of denying, crying, or arguing changes the things outside our control. That’s the essence of Stoicism isn’t it? Of course, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus believed we still had a lot of agency in our lives, that there was still plenty of room for us to maneuver and achieve and affect change. They just accepted there were some things we could not change. They wasted no time arguing with reality.

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