The art of living

Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person’s own life.

~ Epictetus

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Perfection

[I] will not be better than Socrates; but if I am not worse, that is enough for me. I shall never be a Milo, and yet I do not neglect my body; nor a Croesus, and yet I do not neglect my property: Nor, in general, do we cease to take pains in any area, because we despair of arriving at the highest degree of perfection.

~ Epictetus

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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