The Art Of Living By Epictetus

  • Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.

  • Think of your life as if it were a banquet where you would behave graciously. When dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. Or if the dish hasn’t been passed to you yet, patiently wait your turn. Carry over this same attitude of polite restraint and gratitude to your children, spouse, career, and finances. There is no need to yearn, envy, and grab. You will get your rightful portion when it is your time.

  • First, say to yourself what you want to be: then do what you have to do.

  • Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? Its time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people.

  • Know first who you are and what you’re capable of. Just as nothing great is created instantly, the same goes for the perfecting of our talents and aptitudes. We are always learning, always growing. It is right to accept challenges. This is how we progress to the next level of intellectual, physical, or moral development. Still, don’t kid yourself: If you try to be something or someone you are not, you belittle your true self and end up not developing in those areas that you would have excelled at quite naturally.

  • Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish and only caters to or exploits people’s weaknesses. Avoid being one of the mob who indulges in such pastimes. Your life is too short and you have important things to do. Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into your mind.

  • Keep your head. Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there. Assume, instead that everything that happens to you does so for some good. That if you decided to be lucky, you are lucky. All events contain an advantage for you– if you look for it!

  • You will never earn the same rewards as others without employing the same methods and investment of time as they do.

  • If a neighbor’s child breaks a bowl, or some similar thing, we readily say, “These things happen.” When your own bowl breaks, you should respond in the same way as when another person’s bowl breaks. Carry this understanding over to matters of greater emotional import and worldly consequence.

  • Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.

  • If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it.

  • Make the necessary sacrifices that are the price for the worthiest of goals: freedom, even-mindedness, and tranquility.

  • The one who achieves tranquility by having the habit of asking on every occasion, “What is the right thing to do now?”

  • Behold the world fresh–as it is, on its own terms– through he eyes of a beginner. To know that you do not know and to be willing to admit that you do not know without sheepishly apologizing is real strength and sets the stage for learning and progress in any endeavor.

  • When you actively engage in gradually refining yourself, you retreat from your lazy ways of covering yourself or making excuses. Instead of feeling a persistent current of low-level shame, you move forward by using the creative possibilities of this moment, your current situation. You move through your life by being thoroughly in it.

  • Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do and evaluate the attendant consequences.

  • We need to regularly stop and take stock; to sit down and determine within ourselves which things are worth valuing and which things are not; which risks are worth the cost and which are not. Even the most confusing or hurtful aspects of life can be made more tolerable by clear seeing and by choice.

  • Trust nothing and nobody but yourself. Be ceaselessly watchful over your beliefs and impulses.

  • No matter where you find yourself, comport yourself as if you were a distinguished person.

  • We are like actors in a play. The divine will has assigned us our roles in life without consulting us. Some of us will act in a short drama, others in a long one. We might be assigned the part of a poor person, a cripple, a distinguished celebrity or public leader, or an ordinary private citizen. Although we can’t control which roles are assigned to us, it must be our business to act our given role as best as we possible can and to refrain from complaining about it. Wherever you find yourself and in whatever circumstances, give an impeccable performance.

  • Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible.

  • Think before you speak to make sure you are speaking with good purpose. So many people feel compelled to give voice to any passing feeling, thought, or impression they have. They randomly dump the contents of their mind without regard to the consequences.

  • Don’t be afraid of criticism. Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend or explain themselves to others. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We cant control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character.

  • Take care not to casually discuss matters that are of great importance to you with people who are not important to you. Your affairs will become drained of preciousness.

  • Let your ideas and plans incubate before you parade them in front of the naysayers. Most people only know how to respond to an idea by pouncing on its shortfalls rather than identify its potential merits.

  • If anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don’t bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply, “I guess that person doesn’t know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.”

  • Nothing can truly be taken from us. There is nothing to lose. Inner peace begins when we stop saying of things, “I have lost it” and instead say, “It has been returned to where it came from.”

  • The important thing is to take great care with what you have while the world lets you have it.

  • To live a life of virtue; you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy. It is incumbent that your thoughts, words, and deeds match up. Most people want to be good and try somewhat to be good, but then a moral challenge presents itself and lassitude sets in.
  • When you know you’ve done the best you can under the circumstances, you can have a light heart. Your mind doesn’t have to moonlight, making excuses, thinking up alibis, defending your honor, feeling guilty or remorseful. You can simply, cleanly, move on to the next thing.

  • Learn to wait and assess instead of always reacting from untrained instinct. It makes a difference in the quality of your life and the kind of person we become when we learn how to distinguish between cheap thrills and meaningful, lasting rewards.

  • Be careful whom you associate with. It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, their opinions, their values, and their habit of interpreting events. All of these people can affect your destiny. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presences calls forth your best.

  • Make it your business to draw out the best in others by being an exemplar yourself.

  • Trying to control or to change what we cant only results in torment.

  • Cultivate the habit of surveying and testing a prospective action before undertaking it. Before you proceed, step back and look at the big picture, lest you act rashly on raw impulse. Determine what happens first, consider what that leads to, and then act in accordance with what you’ve learned.

  • When we act without circumspection, we might begin a task with great enthusiasm; then, when unforeseen or unwanted consequences follow, we shamefully retreat and are filled with regret: “I would have done this; I could have don’t that; I should have done it differently.”

  • Nothing truly stops you. Nothing truly holds you back. For your own will is always within your control.

  • Sickness may challenge your body. But are you merely your body? Lameness may impede your legs. But you are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs.

  • Your will needn’t be affected by an incident unless you let it. Remember this with everything that happens to you.

  • Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.

  • Instead of personalizing an event and drawing withering conclusions about yourself or human nature, watch for how you can put certain aspects of the event to good use. Pay Attention; be a sleuth. Perhaps there is a lesson you can extract and apply to similar events in the future.

  • There is nothing to prevent us from searching for its hidden opportunity. It is a failure of imagination not to do so.

  • Desire commands us to run off and get what we want. Aversion insists that we must avoid things that repel us.

  • Do your best to rein in your desire. For if you desire something that isn’t within your own control, disappointment will surely follow; meanwhile, you will be neglecting the very things that are within your control that are worthy of desire.

  • Circumstances do not rise to meet our expectations. Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get.

  • Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are what they are.

  • Open your eyes: see things for what they really are, thereby sparing yourself the pain of false attachments and avoidable devastation.

  • Instead of averting your eyes from the painful events of life, look at them squarely and contemplate them often. By facing the realities of death, infirmity, loss, and disappointment, you free yourself of illusions and false hopes and you avoid miserable, envious thoughts.

  • When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it: you can either accept it or resent it.

  • Things themselves don’t hurt or hinder us. Nor do people. It is our attitude and reactions that give us trouble.

  • Examine things as they appear to your own mind; objectively consider what is said by others, and then establish your own convictions.

  • Let others behave as they will– that is not within your control anyway, and thus it’s of no concern to you.

  • People cannot hurt you unless you allow them to. And this holds true even if the person is your parent, brother, sister, teacher, or employer. Don’t consent to be hurt and you wont be hurt– this is a choice over which you have control.

  • What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretations of their significance.

  • The more we examine our attitudes and work on ourselves, the less we are apt to be swept away by stormy emotional reactions in which we seek easy explanations for unbidden events.

  • If it is our feelings about things that torment us rather than the things themselves, it follows that blaming others is silly. Therefore, when we suffer setbacks, disturbances, or grief, let us never place the blame on others, but on our own attitudes.

  • Remember to discriminate between events themselves and your interpretations of them. Remind yourself: “What hurts this person is not the occurrence itself, for another person might not feel oppressed by this situation at all. What is hurting this person is the response he or she has uncritically adopted.”

  • If you find yourself in conversation with someone who is depressed, hurt, or frustrated, show them kindness and give them a sympathetic ear; don’t allow yourself to be pulled down too.

  • Try to be as kind to yourself as possible. Do not measure yourself against others or even against your ideal self. Human betterment is a gradual, two-steps-forward, one step-back effort.

  • Forgive others for their misdeeds over and over again. This gesture fosters inner ease. Forgive yourself over and over and over again. Then try to do better next time.

  • Most people don’t realize that both help and harm come from within ourselves. Wise people realize that we are the source of everything good or bad for us. They therefore don’t resort to blaming and accusing others. They aren’t driven to convince people they are worthy or special or distinguished.

  • The impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, wether it be others or oneself.

  • Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. It is not to be found in your personal associations, nor can it be found in the regard of other people. It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand your or share your enthusiasm.

  • Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you! Create your own merit.

  • Refrain from trying to win other people’s approval and admiration. You are taking a higher road. Don’t long for others to see you as sophisticated, unique, or wise. In fact, be suspicious if you appear to others as someone special. Be on your guard against a false sense of self-importance.

  • Nobody cares that much about your war stories and dramatic adventures, though, they might indulge you for a while to appear polite. To speak frequently and excessively of your own achievements is tiresome and pompous.

  • Everyone in this world is important. If you really want peace of mind and success in your endeavors, forego self-importance.

  • By the steady but patient commitment to removing unsound beliefs from our souls, we become increasingly adept at seeing through or flimsy fears, our bewilderment in love, and our lack of self control. We stop trying to look good to others. One day, we contentedly realize we’ve stopped playing to the crowd.

  • His prescription for the good life centered on three main themes: mastering your desires, performing your duties, and learning to think clearly about yourself and your relations within the larger community of humanity.

  • Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings. View yourself as a citizen of a worldwide community and act accordingly.

  • Spiritual progress requires us to highlight what is essential and to disregard everything else as trivial pursuits unworthy of our attention.

  • The point is not to perform good deeds to win favor with the gods or the admiration of others, but to achieve inner serenity and thus enduring personal freedom.

  • Consider how much more frugal the poor are than we, how much better they forebear hardship. If you want to develop your ability to live simply, do it for yourself, do it quietly, and don’t do it to impress others.

  • Your happiness depends on three things. all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas.

  • Laugh with, but never laugh at.

  • Invoke the characteristics of the people you admire most and adopt their manners, speech, and behavior as your own. There is nothing false in this. We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout.

  • Your possessions should be proportionate to the needs of your body, just as the shoes should fit the foot. Without moral training, we can be induced to excess.

  • Show your character and your commitment to personal nobility through your actions.

  • There is a big difference between saying valuable things and doing valuable things.

  • When the soul cries out, it is a sign that we have arrived at a necessary, mature stage of self-reflection. The secret is not to get stuck there dithering or wringing your hands, but to move forward to resolving to heal yourself.

  • Regardless of what is going on around you, make the best of what is in your power, and take the rest as it occurs.

  • Practice having a grateful attitude and you will be happy.

  • Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself. No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time. Give your best and always be kind.


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