top of page

Premeditatio malorum


There is a reason why soldiers practice their manoeuvres day and night,

why boxers and wrestlers conduct drill after drill after drill, why

firefighters when not on call spend hours preparing for car crashes,

house fires and evacuations; they are preparing.


Preparing for whatever may come their way, so

that when the hour arrives they can leap into action, no matter how

hard or difficult the task may be or whatever surprises may be thrown

their way. They have practised and rehearsed every possibility and now

they can deal with the task at hand in a cool, calm and collected manner. 


You may have heard the saying - 'you do not rise to the challenge, you

fall to the level of preparedness'. This is the the purpose of premeditatio

malorum, to ensure you are prepared. 


Similar to death, people don’t like to think about what could go wrong,

we don’t want to believe the worst can happen. We are told remain

positive and hope for the best, however, this way of thinking can have

dire consequences. Optimism and positivity does have its place, don’t

get me wrong, but this is after preparing for and accepting the worse case scenario. 


Admiral James Stockdale, a Stoic practitioner, who was held in a Vietnamese POW camp for 8 years was once asked who didn’t make it out, his reply was striking:


"Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go and then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again and they died of a broken heart."


It takes courage to prepare for things to go wrong, but if we are to stand any chance of defeating adversity, we must prepare for it. Life will hit you at times and it will hit hard; it will hit hardest those who do not prepare, who are not ready or expecting it. You may already have had to overcome hardship in your life that you didn’t expect, how much better would it have been If you had been ready for it?


The best time to prepare for a crisis is before it comes, in the quiet moments of calm. Good times never last, but bad times may never end if you do not prepare to take them on and have a plan to overcome them.  


Just as a captain would never let his ship leave harbour without preparing for storms at sea, neither should you leave your home in the morning without preparing for whatever storms may come your way. 


If you can learn to prepare for little things to go wrong each day and respond appropriately, the same principles will apply when it comes to preparing for bigger problems that life may greet you with. 


An example of how catastrophic failing to prepare can be: at time of writing, a global pandemic has swept across the globe and many nations were caught unprepared. 


The headlines began by telling us not to worry, the worse case scenario will not play out, ‘it wont affect us’, ‘its just like flu’, ‘don't let fear mongers cause you to panic’, ‘carry on as normal’ they said, ‘nothing will happen' etc… how wrong they were.


A few months later nations went into complete lockdown, economies thrown into the abyss, hospitals overwhelmed, many governments, despite months of warnings, had not prepared. They had hoped; they had hoped for the best and sought to silence those who told them to prepare for the worst. 

If governments had prepared early on, armed themselves for the worse case scenario and taken every precaution, then who knows how differently it could have unfolded. 


Some nations did prepare, however; they took the threat seriously and acted immediately; only time will tell what the full outcome is, but so far they are faring much better than those nations which did not conduct their premeditation of evils. 


Questions to get you started


Start small - Imagine losing your phone, wallet, having to eat plain food, being cold or uncomfortable, imagine losing you job, or your friends, being stuck in traffic and practice the worst case scenarios, then how you would react to these little things in life, and build from there. 


Think hard about what could go wrong today/ in the near future?


  • Plans that fall apart

  • Frustrating people you could meet

  • Anything that life may throw at you


How will you react in the face of these things?


Like a soldier on watch, am I vigilant, alert and ready for whatever fortune may throw at me? 

Have I trained and drilled my mind so that it is ready and prepared. Remember that misfortune hits hardest those who do not prepare. 

Quotes to inspire


But if a man stirs himself to face the worst of disasters and defeats the evils which overwhelm others, then he wears those very sorrows like a sacred badge. For we are naturally disposed to admire more than anything else the man who shows fortitude in adversity. - Seneca. 


If you want a man to keep his head when a crisis comes you must give him training before it comes - Seneca. 


The unforeseen intensifies grief. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. - Seneca. 


This is why we need to envisage every possibility and to strengthen the spirit to deal with the things which may conceivably come about. Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. - Seneca. 


Things will get thrown at you, life is no soft affair - Seneca.

bottom of page