Letters from a Stoic is a collection of letters sent by Lucius Annaeus Seneca to his friend Lucilius. By the time the letters were written, Seneca was already a very old man and was sort of transferring his wisdom to the young Lucilius who was on his way to achieving great things in his career in politics. One of the most dominant themes in a lot of these letters is about self-improvement in which Seneca encouraged Lucilius to continually seek improvement through Stoic philosophy.
Here are timeless Seneca pieces of advice about working to get better at ourselves which still resonates today.
- “You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose” Letter from a Stoic 16
- “When we can never prove whether we really know a thing, we must always be learning it.” Letter from a Stoic 26
- “Knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation… For he who does not know that he has sinned does not desire correction; you must discover yourself in the wrong before you can reform yourself” Letter from a Stoic 28
- “Therefore, as far as possible, prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself.” Letter from a Stoic 28
- “This is sound practice—to refrain from associating with men of different stamp and different aims.” Letter from a Stoic 32
- “For this reason I hold that there is nothing of eminence in all such men as these, who never create anything themselves, but always lurk in the shadow of others, playing the rôle of interpreters, never daring to put once into practice what they have been so long in learning.” Letter from a Stoic 33
- “You would find out whether you have accomplished anything, consider whether you desire the same things today that you desired yesterday” Letter from a Stoic 35
- “Let there be a difference between yourself and your book! How long shall you be a learner? From now on be a teacher as well!” Letter from a Stoic 33
- “Greatness develops only at long intervals” Letter from a Stoic 42
- “For what else are you busied with except improving yourself every day, laying aside some error, and coming to understand that the faults which you attribute to circumstances are in yourself? We are indeed apt to ascribe certain faults to the place or to the time; but those faults will follow us, no matter how we change our place” Letter from a Stoic 49