Temperance — a Trajectory for Life

What is it that we are supposed to be aiming for in this life? How do we become the best version of ourselves? According to the Stoics, the answer is quite clear: virtue. The Stoics liked to say that everything we face in life, is an opportunity to respond with virtue. More than just a moral compass. A way of life. The Stoics believed in the four so called ‘cardinal virtues’ — Courage, Temperance, Wisdom and Justice. In a previous article we’ve talked about courage, this article is dedicated to temperance, another word for moderation.

The Stoics often used temperance interchangeably with ‘self-control’. Self-control, not just towards materialism, but true self-mastery, harmony, and good discipline — in pleasure or pain, admiration or contempt, failure or triumph. To master anything, someone must first master themselves — one’s emotions, one’s thoughts, one’s actions. Without boundaries and moderation, we not only fail to realise our potential, but we also take unnecessary risks. In a noisy world full with temptations, this virtue is more relevant than ever before. Restraint. Balance. Happiness. Success.

In Ryan Holiday’s latest book ‘Discipline is Destiny — The Power of Self-control’, the author elaborates on examples about historical figures who can be considered role models for discipline, ranging from Marcus Aurelius to Floyd Patterson and Eisenhower. It was Eisenhower who famously said that freedom is the opportunity to practice self-discipline. But Holiday also tells stories about people who jeopardised a lot for themselves and their environment by neglecting to develop and steadfastly pursue a path of self-control and discipline. 

‘Character is fate’ — Heraclitus. 

Character truly shapes our destiny. It is deterministic. It determines who we are and what we do. Discipline should be a goal objective on its own. It should be an intrinsic value —a pillar in life— that makes whatever we do, great.  

Discipline and self-mastery define us and our futures. Who we are, the standards we hold ourselves to, the things we do, the habits we form. Ultimately, these are all better indicators and probably even predictors of the trajectory of our lives compared to things such as talent or resources. 

Make temperance a goal on itself, an integration in your daily life, whether it’s in the office, or at home, this virtue contributes to building a great future.

You can not succeed without it.