Back to Books | Stoicism

This is one of my favorite books.

Out of the stoics, Epictetus is the one that resonates most with me. I find him super clear and direct.

This book is short, but dense of insights. You can get through it in an afternoon and it will have an impact on the way you see things.

I find myself going back to it when there’s something I’m struggling with.

Those below are direct quotes from the book. I simply organized based on some macro themes.

Check the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Things within vs outside of our power

There are things that are within our power, and things that fall outside our power. Within our power are our own opinions, aims, desires, dislikes—in sum, our own thoughts and actions. Outside our power are our physical characteristics, the class into which we were born, our reputation in the eyes of others, and honors and offices that may be bestowed on us. 

Let go of things beyond your power

Whenever distress or displeasure arises in your mind, remind yourself, “This is only my interpretation, not reality itself.” Then ask whether it falls within or outside your sphere of power. And, if it is beyond your power to control, let it go. 

Try to control things out of your power and you’ll suffer

If you avoid only those undesirable things which are within your control, you will never suffer by attaining something you detest. But if you try to avoid what you cannot control—sickness, poverty, death—you will inflict useless mental suffering upon yourself. 

End the habit of despising things that are not within your power, and apply your aversion to things that are within your power.

When you desire something outside your sphere of power, you set yourself up for disappointment. But it is within your power to avoid disappointment, by directing your desires to things that are rightfully yours to obtain and control.

The future is beyond your control

When you hear predictions of the future, do not become fearful or excited—remember that future events are beyond your control. Keep the same serene mindset you had before hearing the prediction. When you understand that outside events do not touch your deepest self—what matters is your interpretation and reaction—you can use any circumstance to your benefit. 

Accepting Death

When you embrace your wife or child, remember that they are mortal beings. By accepting their nature rather than denying it, if either should die you will find the strength to bear it.

You are in control

When you are feeling upset, angry, or sad, don’t blame another for your state of mind. Your condition is the result of your own opinions and interpretations. 

Do not wish that all things will go well with you, but that you will go well with all things.

Dealing with provocateurs or annoying people

When anyone provokes you, remember that it is actually your own opinion provoking you. It is not the person who insults or attacks you who torments your mind, but the view you take of these things. Do not be fooled by how things first appear. With time and greater perspective, you can regain inner peace

If someone tried to take control of your body and make you a slave, you would fight for freedom. Yet how easily you hand over your mind to anyone who insults you. When you dwell on their words and let them dominate your thoughts, you make them your master.

Dealing with challenges

Whenever a challenge arises, turn inward and ask what power you can exercise in the situation. If you meet temptation, use self-control; if you meet pain, use fortitude; if you meet revulsion, use patience. 

Ignore others (respect yourself)

If you find yourself acting to impress others, or avoiding action out of fear of what they might think, you have left the path. Find satisfaction in following your philosophy. If you want to be respected, start by respecting yourself. 

Do not fret about your own significance, worrying, “I’ll never become admired or renowned—I’m just a nobody from nowhere.” Is it your business to chase after political power or fame? No. Find your significance within yourself. 

The philosopher

A philosopher is one whose thoughts and emotions are internally anchored. She criticizes no one, praises no one, blames no one. She considers herself a student, not an expert. When she fails, she takes responsibility. When she succeeds, she smiles to herself. She controls her desires. She hates only those things which hinder the free use of her will. She acts with calm deliberation. If she comes across as knowing nothing in eyes of others, she does not care