When people seek stoic wisdom today, they usually come across Epictetus. Epictetus is a great example of a thinker who can spark your mind towards greater thought. He addresses some of the most practical issues that a modern individual may face. He urges you to look inward, to reflect on your own opinions and prejudice.
Here, I will list ten Epictetus quotes which can help you get a better grasp on his philosophy, and eventually a deeper knowledge of Stoicism.
- “From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now”.
We often get lost in the crowd, we forget about our interests and we surrender to the tastes of the mob. Epictetus suggests that you find your own center, find what you’re good at and surrender to it. It’s equally important to do what you find meaningful instantly as well.
- “Fortify yourself with moderation; for it is an impenetrable fortress”.
Moderation is the mother of stability. It is the reflection of your own character. If you are trained to be moderate, material gains and external goods can’t muddle your mind. You are the one in charge, since you will ascribe the value to things on the basis of reason.
- “No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes of fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I will answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen”.
Patience is the mother of wisdom. You should be patient with the goals you set for yourself. Not only that, you should work on those goals every day. Every great work will repay itself. Epictetus generally stressed on the process rather than the end result.
- “When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger”.
It’s easy to be mad or angry when others make mistakes. We often think that we’re better. This is the hubris that inhibits everyone. Turn to yourself, see how many mistakes you’ve made. This practice will calm your temper, and develop your empathy.
- “Seek not good in external things, seek it in yourselves”.
There can be many external things which we consider as good, but those things are not good on their own. They are good because we ascribe to them those values. True good lies within yourself, it is the ultimate measure of your own value.
- “It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them”.
Pleasures of the body are neither good nor bad from Epictetus’ point of view. However, human beings are often prone to thinking that happiness resides in external objects of pleasure. This is why we suffer the most, because our happiness stops when the pleasure ends. However, the real happiness comes from within our own minds, from the contentment with oneself.
- “Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live”.
We live in present moment. If you avoid the present moment often, you’ll lose the opportunity to truly live. Get yourself out there, respond to others, to challenges, to deeds. Break the chains that enslave you to the future and the past. Your moment is now.
- “If you want to be a writer – write!”
This advice might seem obvious, yet it’s really profound. Usually people spend more time fantasizing about their actions, rather than carrying them out. If you want to become better at something, practice it more often.
- “Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into you mind”.
Be prepared to commit yourself to the ideas you deem worthy. Some thoughts can have a bad influence on our character and mind. Think about what is important to you, and what is not. Then, discard the latter.
- “Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived by external source”.
If flattery can boost our Ego, then critics can demolish it. This is what happens when your worth depends on others. You can’t expect any success in your work if you’re always looking at what others have to say about you. You are the arbiter of your own worth. Therefore to find your true worth, you need to spend more time with yourself, in order to discover what makes you special.