Intro To The Stoic Mindset: Principle No.1: Negative Visualization

By June 18, 2015Dedicated Habits
as part  of collection,  Roman Art from the Louvre, currently on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.     BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN ORG XMIT: KOD

I first encountered stoicism in February earlier this year.

After six months invested into a business, which failed miserably and having not a lot to show for my work. I felt like every day was like walking through a valley of shadows. I did not know which way to turn or what to do next. I felt lost.

I very timely, stumbled across a certain book by Ryan Holiday. “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.” If you get anything out of this post, buy this book. It will serve you well. This was my first encounter on stoicism.

Having such a profound effect on my life, I will start including a series of posts titled “The Stoic Mindset.” In these short posts, I will take the principles of what we can do to make our life not just tolerable, but joyful using the philosophy of stoicism. Stoicism is a continuous practice and one that is not mastered overnight.

So let’s begin.

Welcome to Principle No.1: Negative Visualization

Working hard to get what we want. We routinely lose interest in the object of our desire. Rather than feeling satisfied, we feel bored and in response to this boredom we strive for more and more.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the good things in life which has to offer, as long as we are careful with the manner in which we enjoy them.

Once you feel the desire for something new. We adapt and stop desiring what we have strived so hard to get. As a result, you end just as dissatisfied, after fulfilling your desire you worked so hard to achieve. This never ending satisfaction treadmill, is a process of always wanting more and more. This is referred to as hedonic adaptation.

One key to happiness and not to fall into this routine would be to stall the hedonic adaptation process. To do this, we need to appreciate the things we take for granted, that we worked so hard to get and dreamed of once having. Our spouse, our job, our car etc. Wanting the things we already have, is easy to state, putting it into practice is the hard work.

The Stoic practice, in this case, would be to spend time imagining and visualizing losing the things they valued. Our wife leaving us for another man. Losing our home to a fire or earthquake. Losing our job due a recession. Losing our best friend to cancer.

Doing this, the Stoics thought it will make us value what we have, more than we otherwise would. This technique is now known and practiced as negative visualization.

Take a look at these questions:

Propose solutions, by asking better questions on yourself.

1. Describe the worst case scenario of something you take for granted?

2. If the worst case scenario happened, what actions could you take to minimize those things from happening.

3. What would  you need to take to get back to the status quo (your original position.)

There maybe  something things which you may not be able to control when asking yourself these questions. For example,  you are not in control of the health of others. Or how much the other person loves you. But by carrying out this exercise, may make you realize that you appreciate that that person. May make you send them a letter, or pick up the phone to check and see how they are.

Instead of trying to strive and visualize of what you want next. Practice spending time imagining and losing the things in life which you already have.


  • Have you heard of stoicism before? If so, what struck a chord with you?
  • Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to see more post like this?
  • Have you used positive visualization before? Do you think this is more powerful?

Peace and love,


Piedmont, California.