3 Stoic Reasons Why Planning For Evil Will Benefit Your Life


"Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes." - Seneca. 


The stoics were well known for their Practice of Premeditatio Malorum— the premeditation of evils. This involved consciously imagining the worst possible scenarios in any given situation and rehearsing how you would respond to them. 


But the Practice of Premeditatio Malorum (the premeditation of evils) isn't just designed for the stoics— it could also be beneficial in daily life by helping any one of us better prepare ourselves to deal with the worst-case scenarios that come up.


Many people in this world have an inherent aversion to planning for failure because they're frightened of what might happen if it actually happens. But this Practice teaches us this kind of irrational thinking and that the only way to move past our fears and insecurities (and thus be a better person) is to face them head-on. 


Here are three stoic reasons why planning for failure will benefit your life.


Premeditatio Malorum protects you from being blindsided

First and foremost, Premeditatio Malorum protects you from being blindsided: 

Seneca and Epictetus both taught that premeditation of evils is a critical practice that can help you be less surprised and more prepared when adversity strikes. 

Suppose potential mishaps have been pre-visualized and accepted by us. In that case, we are far better equipped to deal with our emotional response than someone who has never even considered the possibility. 

Marcus Aurelius argues that rehearsing our worst fears (or even planning for them) will lessen their impact on us because it becomes clear that they aren't necessarily so bad. 

As he writes,

"Begin the morning by telling yourself, I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, and treacherous people...If you expect trouble, give trouble time to grow; what rushes in at once will soon enough go out again."

…. Practice, therefore, makes perfect. 

Practicing these negative events allows you to become completely indifferent towards the things you imagined happening - think of it like a vaccine or immunization: By repeatedly exposing yourself to such things as poverty, death, and disease, even though only in thought, they cause no terror or distress when they come upon you in reality.

Trains you to be resilient

At its heart, Premeditatio Malorum was designed to train you to be resilient. 

Marcus Aurelius says, 

"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men."

He is not telling you that these things will happen (that's impossible to know), but instead, he is training you for when they do happen. The idea is that when it does happen, and a difficult person or situation confronts you, your mind will automatically react with acceptance rather than anger or fear.

The goal is not to plan for every possible lousy event so that nothing can surprise you; it's about training your subconscious mind to react positively no matter what happens. 

"Preconceive everything that might happen as though it had already happened . . . If you have anticipated all contingencies, then there is less danger."

There are many ways to apply the premeditation technique today; visualize giving a talk and realize someone nearby has their phone set to record. Or imagine walking into an interview with your resume clenched tightly in your hand only to find an empty room waiting for you. 

You get the picture! 

So, please list all the terrible things that could happen in your life and think about them before they occur. Train your mind to anticipate the worst-case scenario, and you'll be surprised at how resilient you become. 

Helps you gain perspective

Finally, Premeditatio Malorum is a tool that can help you gain perspective.

If you imagine all the things that can go wrong and learn how to cope with them, you'll not only be more prepared and resilient when they happen but may even broaden your mindset.

Marcus Aurelius said:

"When faced with difficulties, think of what brought you to this point. It might be an illness and a lack of money - everything is easier to bear if you maintain an awareness of its transient nature."

Aurelius was so aware of the transient nature of life that he knew there was something we could do about potential problems - accepting them and taking responsibility for them rather than denying their existence. 

Accepting and taking responsibility for potential mishaps will add to your life experiences and may act as a launch pad to bigger and better things.

So, don't shy away from the evils of life. 


Marcus Aurelius once said, 

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

Anticipating and facing your fears head-on is one way to dictate those thoughts for the better. 

We know Premeditatio Malorum can be a scary concept, but if it's used the way the Stoics intended, it can be an empowering exercise that bolsters your life. 

It can drastically improve your existence. 

But there's only one “stoic way" to test the above statement.

… Are you ready to dive in?