A Book That Will Improve Your Well-Being, Focus, and Clarity

Ryan Holiday's new "Stillness is the Key" provides many helpful tips.

Posted Sep 09, 2019

Ryan Holiday is a 32-year old American author known for his writing on the ancient philosophy, Stoicism. In counseling and other forms of psychology, "Stoicism" likey fits under the subdomain of "Virtue Ethics."

In 2014, Holiday released his first book on Stoicism, The Obstacle Is the Way. The book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and spread widely among professional athletes.

In 2016, Holiday released his second book on Stoicism, Ego Is the Enemywhich has also done well, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

In October of 2019, Holiday will release the third book in his Stoicism trilogy, Stillness Is the Key. Knowing Ryan personally, I was able to receive an advanced copy. To be clear, however, I receive nothing for writing this article. It was my own choice in response to reading the book myself.

Stillness Is the Key

Daily Stoic
Stillness is the Key
Source: Daily Stoic

Having read all of Holiday's books on Stoicism, Stillness felt sharper in its writing, thinking, and ideas than Holiday's former books. Yet at the same time, the book also felt more compassionate and empathetic toward the reader. 

Put another way, Holiday seems more clear and convicted in his views than ever, yet more understanding toward each person's personal struggle to live such high ideals. Holiday seemed to portray a genuine desire for the reader, wherever they are, to take "timeless" ideas and use them to improve their current station.

Stillness is the Key is all about finding "stillness," what psychologists may term mindfulness, well-being, or even meditation. 

According to Holiday, stillness is a characteristic at the center of every ancient philosophy and religion. Without stillness, you cannot make clear decisions. You can't do deep creative work. You can't know yourself and where you want your life to. You can't prioritize and execute your plans.

Stillness is the characteristic so many of the world's greatest leaders, innovators, thinkers, athletes, and people had to use—especially in the darkest or hardest times—o successfully conquer whatever obstacle they were facing. 

The book is structured in three parts: Mind, spirit, and body. Within each section are 10 or so prescriptive chapters, each providing compelling stories and strategies for improving the stillness in one's life. 

In PART 1: MIND, Holiday provides strategies including:

  • Become present 
  • Limit your inputs
  • Start journaling
  • Cultivate silence

In PART 2: SPIRIT, Holiday provides strategies including:

  • Heal the inner child
  • Accept a higher power
  • Conquer anger

In PART 3: BODY, Holiday provides strategies including:

  • Say no
  • Take a walk
  • Get rid of your stuff
  • Go to sleep
  • Act bravely

Holiday's ideas have a great deal of scientific merit. For instance, being present or "mindful" is linked to greater well-being in all areas of one's life. The benefits of journaling are, of course, well documented. Sleep too has received major recent attention.

Although much of his thinking is backed by recent scientific findings, Holiday himself prefers "timeless" ideas over the latest fad or finding. Even still, as a scientist myself, I can't help but pay attention to what I'm reading with the question: Is this just one person's opinion? 

In Holiday's case, the answer is clearly no. He does his research. He does his homework. Anyone who reads his work can attest to that fact. Yet, he isn't afraid to share his opinion. He isn't afraid to express his personal beliefs and convictions.

And this is at least one reason why I believe Holiday's work is so important. He reads far and wide, providing the best information he can. At the same time, he doesn't hide behind his research as so many others do. He actually has an opinion. And he shares it boldly and without restraint. 

If you're looking for an interesting and fresh read that is less academic and more historically driven, check out Stillness is the Key. It will leave you better as a result. 

References

Alzola, M., Romar, E., & Hennig, A. (2017). Virtue ethics between east and west.

Epp, S. (2008). The value of reflective journaling in undergraduate nursing education: A literature review. International journal of nursing studies, 45(9), 1379-1388.

Gu, J., Strauss, C., Bond, R., & Cavanagh, K. (2015). How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies. Clinical psychology review, 37, 1-12.

Sano, A., Phillips, A. J., McHill, A. W., Taylor, S., Barger, L. K., Czeisler, C. A., & Picard, R. W. (2017). 0182 Influence of weekly sleep regularity on self-reported wellbeing. Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research, 40(suppl_1), A67-A68.