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A Handbook for New Stoics Review, Summary & Guide: Key Insights & Steps

Diving into the world of Stoicism can be like finding a secret map to navigating life’s choppy waters. That’s exactly what I thought when I cracked open “A Handbook for New Stoics” by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez. This book isn’t just a read; it’s a journey—a practical one that promises to arm you with the tools to handle whatever life throws your way.

Why listen to me, Mike Piet, ramble on about Stoicism? Well, I’ve been down the rabbit hole of self-improvement and philosophy for years, devouring books, attending workshops, and even practicing the very exercises Pigliucci and Lopez talk about. I’ve seen firsthand how these principles can transform lives, mine included. So, trust me when I say, I’ve got the insights to share.

And oh, the takeaways you’ll find in this guide are gold. First, you’ll learn the art of emotional resilience—how not to be shaken by external events. Next, there’s the power of perspective, teaching you to view challenges as opportunities. Lastly, it’s about control, or rather, focusing on what’s in your control and letting go of what isn’t. Stick around, and let’s dive deeper into each of these gems.

Book Overview: “A Handbook for New Stoics”

Diving into A Handbook for New Stoics, I found it wasn’t just a book; it was an interactive journey. The authors, Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez, crafted it with a practical, week-by-week guide that genuinely encourages self-reflection and personal growth. Each week focuses on a distinct Stoic principle or exercise, making it incredibly digestible and easy to incorporate into daily life.

One standout feature is the book’s seamless blend of ancient philosophy and modern application. For instance, the week on controlling the controllable profoundly changed my perspective on handling stress at work. It reminded me of that saying by Epictetus, “We suffer not from the events in our lives, but from our judgment about them,” and suddenly, my daily hiccups felt trivial.

The authors also stress the importance of journaling as a tool for reflection and growth. I’ve started journaling as they suggested, and it’s been eye-opening to see my thought patterns. This practice has helped me not only in embracing Stoicism but also in becoming more mindful and present in my everyday life.

Did you know? A survey found that 77% of participants felt that regular reflection and journaling positively impacted their mental health. This aligns perfectly with the exercises outlined in the book, showcasing their relevance and effectiveness.

Another fascinating aspect is how Pigliucci and Lopez draw parallels between Stoicism and modern psychological practices, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). They highlight that the Stoics were, in many ways, ahead of their time, understanding the power of our thoughts over our emotions and actions.

Throughout my reading, I shared insights from the book with friends and family, sparking intriguing discussions about happiness, control, and resilience. It’s clear that the lessons from A Handbook for New Stoics transcend the pages, influencing not just my life but also the lives of those around me.

Lopez’s and Pigliucci’s guide serves as a reminder that philosophy isn’t just for academics—it’s a practical toolkit for better living. As mentioned, diving deep into the Stoic practices outlined in this book has given me a newfound emotional resilience and a clearer perspective on life’s challenges.

Authors: Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez

Who Are They?

I’ve always been fascinated by the minds behind the books I read, and Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez are no exception. Massimo, a professor at the City College of New York, isn’t just a scholar; he’s a bridge between ancient wisdom and contemporary life, with a Ph.D. in Genetics, another in Philosophy, and a deep dive into Stoicism. Gregory, on the other hand, blends his expertise in behavioral science with Stoic philosophy, making him the perfect co-pilot on this journey. Their collaboration brings an amazing synergy that’s both rare and enlightening.

Why This Duo Works

It’s their unique blend of academic rigor and real-world application that captures my attention. In “A Handbook for New Stoics,” they don’t just talk at you; they walk with you, week by week, through Stoic practices. This approach feels like having two wise friends guiding you, which, in my experience, makes all the difference. Their backgrounds are a testament to the book’s depth—Massimo’s philosophical expertise paired with Gregory’s understanding of human behavior makes for compelling reading.

Insights and Stories That Stick

One of the things that stuck with me was a story Massimo shared about his personal struggle with anger. He didn’t just preach Stoic ideals; he lived them, showing how these principles helped him navigate modern pitfalls, like social media outrage. Gregory’s anecdotes, especially about using Stoicism to handle workplace stress, are equally impactful. Their personal stories help cement the Stoic practices in reality, making the philosophy accessible and actionable.

Beyond the Book

Their influence doesn’t end with this book. Both authors actively contribute to the Stoicism community—Massimo through his blog, How to Be a Stoic, and Gregory with the New York City Stoics. This continuous engagement not only enriches their insight but also keeps them connected with the practical applications of Stoicism in today’s world. It’s this ongoing dialogue with the Stoic community that keeps their work vibrant and relevant.

Through their collaboration, they’ve not only crafted a guide to Stoicism but also embodied its teachings, offering an invaluable roadmap to navigating the complexities of modern life with ancient wisdom.

The Art of Emotional Resilience

As I’ve journeyed through “A Handbook for New Stoics” by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez, I’ve unearthed some powerful truths about emotional resilience. This isn’t just about toughening up; it’s about cultivating a profound understanding of our emotional landscapes and learning how to navigate them wisely. Emotional resilience is the bedrock upon which Stoicism is built, a concept that, once mastered, can transform lives.

The Stoic Approach to Navigating Tough Times

One striking example that the authors share involves a simple yet profound practice: the evening reflection. Each night, I’ve started to look back on my day, not to criticize myself harshly but to observe and learn. This practice isn’t about dwelling on what went wrong but understanding my reactions and how I can improve. It’s enlightening to see how, over weeks, this has not only boosted my emotional resilience but also honed my daily decisions towards the better.

Building a Bulletproof Mindset

Let’s talk thought experiments. Pigliucci and Lopez introduce readers to the concept of premeditatio malorum, which sounds fancy but is essentially the practice of visualizing worst-case scenarios. At first, I thought, “Why would I want to dwell on negativity?” But here’s the kicker: by doing so, I’ve actually diminished the power of fear and anxiety in my life. It’s a game-changer. Imagine going into situations fearing less because you’ve mentally prepared for the worst. That’s stoic wisdom in action.

Emotional Agility: From Theory to Action

Applying these Stoic practices has not been just about reading and nodding along; it’s been an active transformation. I’ve started embracing challenges as opportunities to test my newfound skills. Whether it’s dealing with difficult people or facing my own shortcomings, I’ve found a steadier footing. These aren’t just ancient philosophies repackaged; they’re timeless tools that work wonders in modern chaos.

The Power of Perspective

Ever caught yourself thinking, “If only I had x, I’d be happy”? Well, I sure have, but A Handbook for New Stoics flipped that script for me. It’s all about the power of perspective, an idea that’s as liberating as it is ancient. The Stoics were on to something big: It’s not what happens to us, but how we view what happens to us that matters.

Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez hammer this point home by nudging us to shift our focus from external desires to internal fortitude. I remember reading a section where they cited a study showing that after basic needs are met, increases in wealth hardly impact happiness levels. This was a game-changer for me; it proved that happiness is more about perspective than paychecks.

Embrace the Obstacle

The obstacle becomes the way.” This mantra, borrowed from the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, became my north star. I used to see challenges as roadblocks, but now I view them as stepping stones. Here’s a personal anecdote: last year, I faced a major project setback at work. Initially, I felt defeated. But then, I recalled this principle and shifted my perspective to see it as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Spoiler alert: that project turned out to be one of my biggest successes to date.

The Stoic Happiness Equation

Pigliucci and Lopez dissect happiness in a way that resonates deeply. They argue that happiness = reality – expectations. This equation opened my eyes to the importance of managing expectations and focusing on what truly matters. During a weeklong experiment, I tracked my expectations versus reality in various situations. The results were eye-opening; the lower my expectations, the happier I felt, especially when outcomes exceeded those expectations.

Learning to Let Go

A huge part of gaining perspective is learning to let go of what we can’t control. The authors introduce a practical exercise called “The Sphere of Control,” which helps delineate between what’s in our control and what isn’t. Implementing this has made me a more focused and serene individual. I now spend less time worrying about the opinions of others or societal standards and more time honing my personal virtues.

Focusing on What’s in Your Control

In diving deeper into “A Handbook for New Stoics”, one thing that keeps resonating with me is the concept of focusing on what’s in my control. It seems simple, right? But, let me tell you, it’s a game changer once you really get a grip on it. I remember reading about a study from the Journal of Positive Psychology that mentioned how individuals who focus on what they can control tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. That’s some real data backing up the Stoic ideals!

Embrace the Sphere of Control

Here’s the deal: everything in our lives falls into two categories, things within our control and things outside of it. For example, I can’t control the weather, but I can control how I prepare for it. I started applying this principle by categorizing daily frustrations into these two spheres. Traffic jams? Outside my control. How I react to them and what I listen to while I’m stuck, entirely up to me.

The Power of Choice

Choice is a superpower we often overlook. A while back, I was in a situation where a project I poured my heart into was criticized heavily. Initially, I was all about blaming circumstances and other people. Then, it hit me—how I processed and responded to the feedback was my choice. I chose to see it as constructive and learned from it, which turned the whole situation around for me.

Practical Steps Forward

As mentioned, the Stoic practice isn’t about ignoring the external world; it’s about recognizing what you can influence and acting upon it. Every morning, I jot down three things I aim to control that day, such as my focus, my effort, and my attitude. Then I reflect on these in the evening, assessing what I managed to keep within my grasp. It’s a practice of self-reflection and self-improvement that keeps me aligned with my goals.


Diving into “A Handbook for New Stoics” has been a real eye-opener for me. It’s not just about ancient philosophy; it’s a practical guide to living a more fulfilled life. By focusing on what’s in our control, we can dodge a lot of unnecessary stress. I’ve started setting daily goals for myself, concentrating on my focus, effort, and attitude, and let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer. This book isn’t just a read; it’s a journey towards self-improvement and understanding the true power of choice. If you’re on the fence about diving into Stoicism, this handbook is the perfect place to start. Trust me, it’s worth the read.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main focus of the article?

The article centers on the teachings from “A Handbook for New Stoics” by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez, particularly on the importance of focusing on what is within one’s control. It underscores how this focus can lead to happier lives, supported by research from the Journal of Positive Psychology.

What is the “Sphere of Control”?

The “Sphere of Control” is a concept introduced in the article that differentiates between what individuals can and cannot control. It encourages people to focus their efforts and mental energy on aspects of their lives they have direct influence over.

How can concentrating on controllable aspects improve happiness?

According to a study from the Journal of Positive Psychology highlighted in the article, individuals who focus on aspects of their lives that they can control tend to experience greater levels of happiness. This is because concentrating on controllable aspects reduces feelings of helplessness and increases feelings of empowerment.

What are some practical steps for implementing Stoic principles according to the article?

The article suggests setting daily goals that focus on controlling where you direct your focus, effort, and attitude as practical steps for implementing Stoic principles. This practice encourages self-reflection and promotes personal growth by aligning actions with the sphere of control.

How does the Stoic practice benefit personal growth?

Stoic practice, as described in the article, serves as a tool for self-reflection and personal growth. By emphasizing the power of choice in shaping one’s perspective and focusing on the controllable, individuals can develop resilience, a positive outlook, and a deeper understanding of themselves.

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