Three Great Epictetus Quotes

Since I began writing a book about resilience, I have been researching stoicism, as this way of thinking lends to remarkable resilience. One of the great stoic philosophers was Epictetus, who was around in 100 AD. Ancient wisdom is impressive because unlike most things, it can survive thousands of years.  Epictetus had some epic quotes.

Epictetus’s book, Discourses, is a written account of his (verbal) teachings by one of his pupils named Arrian. I’ve been reading through it as I research the topic of resilience. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Discourses so far.

With regard to practical matters they maintain that popular ideas of good and bad are wrong: many people who appear to be in dire circumstances are actually happy provided they deal with their situation bravely; others, regardless of how many possessions they have, are miserable, because they do not know how to use the gifts of fortune wisely.

~ Epictetus

Perspective is everything. You could have two people with the same exact lives, one miserable and the other happy. I try to remind myself of this whenever I get into a “woe is me” mood.

I must die. But must I die bawling? I must be put in chains – but moaning and groaning too? I must be exiled; but is there anything to keep me from going with a smile, calm and self-composed?

~ Epictetus

This is stoicism in a nutshell! No matter what happens, you control your response.

Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort on that account. Epictetus will not be better than Socrates. But if I am no worse, I am satisfied.  I mean, I will never be Milo either; nevertheless, I don’t neglect my body. Nor will I be another Croesus – and still, I don’t neglect my property. In short, we do not abandon any discipline for despair of ever being the best in it.

~ Epictetus

This Epictetus quote is SO important. If you can’t be the very best, does that mean you shouldn’t try at all? Of course not. You don’t have to exercise for the purpose of being a bodybuilder. The benefits of positive pursuits are a spectrum of goodness. Look beyond looking like peak Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you’ll find many other reasons to exercise!

On a personal level, it’s better to be slightly out of shape than completely out of shape. Don’t think all or nothing, think something or nothing!

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