A program of self-mastery

Begin at once a program of self-mastery. But start modestly, with the little things that bother you. Has your child spilled something? Have you misplaced your wallet? Say to yourself, “Coping calmly with this inconvenience is the price I pay for my inner serenity, for freedom from perturbation; you don’t get something for nothing.”

~ Epictetus

The appropriate inner resource

If you encounter an attractive person, then self-restraint is the resource needed; if pain or weakness, then stamina; if verbal abuse, then patience. As time goes by and you build on the habit of matching the appropriate inner resource to each incident, you will not tend to get carried away by life’s appearances. You will stop feeling overwhelmed so much of the time.

~ Epictetus

The faculty of choice

What else does the eye do, when it is opened, than see? But whether we ought to look upon somebody’s wife, and in what manner, what tells us that? The faculty of choice. Whether we ought to believe, or to disbelieve, what is said; or whether, if we do believe, we ought to be moved by it or not; what tells us that? Is it not the faculty of choice?

~ Epictetus

The impulse to blame

Small-minded people habitually reproach others for their own misfortunes. Average people reproach themselves. Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself.

~ Epictetus

Dawning of moral progress

One of the signs of the dawning of moral progress is the gradual extinguishing of blame. We see the futility of finger-pointing. 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.

~ Epictetus

Desire and aversion

Desire and aversion, though powerful, are but habits. And we can train ourselves to have better habits. Restrain the habit of being repelled by all those things that aren’t within your control, and focus instead on combating things within your power that are not good for you.

~ Epictetus

Serious work

Well, then, are we teachers the only idle dreamers? No; it is you young men who are much more so. For, indeed, we old men, when we see young ones at play, are keen to join in that play ourselves. Far more so, then, if I saw them wide awake and keen to join us in our studies, should I be eager myself to join with them in serious work.

~ Epictetus

Show yourself first

If you should ever turn your will to things outside your control in order to impress someone, be sure that you have wrecked your whole purpose in life. Be content, then, to be a philosopher in all that you do, and if you wish also to be seen as one, show yourself first that you are and you will succeed.

~ Epictetus