Book Review: A Guide to The Good Life by William Irvine.

Few books have impacted my life to the same degree as A Guide to the Good Life. It takes Stoic philosophy and translates it into practical tips for how to improve your overall psychological well-being.

The right book at the right time.

I discovered this book early in my reading career and it introduced me to both stoicism and the art of living. I actually see a clear divide between who I was before vs. after reading this book.

Adopting the stoic ideas from this book resulted in:

-95% road rage.

+45% gratitude

-30% gossip/judgement

+50% insult immunity.

+75% practice of Voluntary Discomfort.

+100% more philosophy books in my reading list.

Video Review of A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine

3 Key Concepts from the book

1. Hedonic adaptation

Imagine, you get the “thing” you desired for a long time. The following weeks and months the newness of it starts to fade. With enough time the initial appreciation is gone.

This is Hedonic Adaptation. After working hard to get what we want you quickly lose interest in what you worked so hard to attain.

This book was first to introduce me to some interesting stoic countermeasures for combating hedonic adaptation; Negative Visualization & Voluntary Discomfort. 

2. Negative Visualization

Make a habit of imagining, as vivid as possible, the loss of possessions & loved ones. This will help you appreciate things and people more fully. This might sound macabre, but let’s face it; nothing is forever, no one is immortal.

3. Voluntary Discomfort

Practice depriving yourself of what you have to appreciate its real value. Build resilience & toughen up beforehand for occasions of misfortune.

🔸Sleep on the floor.

🔹Don’t drink for a day.

🔹Underdress for cold weather.

🔸Read comment section online to elicit anger & practice equanimity.

🔹Emulate poverty by dressing in shabby clothes & sleep under a bridge.

🔸Turn down wine when offered. (Even in pandemics & war 😉 )


If this idea piqued your interest and want to learn more then check out my article 3 Book about the surprising benefits of Voluntary Discomfort.


If you don’t have a philosophy of life, or are in the process of uncover the principles on which to build your life, then this book is a must read. It’s an exeptionally practical book and the author has done a great job at translating ancient stoic ideas and practices into tool that can be used in a modern context and you everyday life.

This is the 5th time I read this book. Sure, it has repetitive parts, but it holds up each time. It earned it’s place in on my Great Books list.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  out of 5

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List
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