Epictetus (c. 55 – 135) was born a slave in Turkey nearly 2,000 years ago and then lived in Rome until he was banished to Greece.
He was one of the Stoic philosophers. Epictetus taught that philosophy had to be more than theoretical; it had to be the way you lived your life. To him, external events were beyond one’s control and we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.
Did you have access to this kind of wisdom when you were a teenager? Probably not. I didn’t. My quest to collect wisdom didn’t begin until I was in graduate school at Duke University, and reflecting on the thoughts of the world’s best minds has certainly made a difference in my life. Here are a dozen of my favorite quotes from Epictetus, taken from “Discourses,” by Arrian, who wrote down his master’s teachings:
ATTITUDE – “Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”
CHARACTER – “Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.”
CHARACTER – “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
DECISIVENESS – “In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it.”
INITIATIVE – “First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
OPTIMISM – “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
PATIENCE – “No great thing is created suddenly.”
PATIENCE – “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”
SELF-DEVELOPMENT – “First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”
SELF-DEVELOPMENT – “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”
SELF-DISCIPLINE – “No man is free who is not master of himself.”
SELF-DISCIPLINE – “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.”
Yes, it would have helped me a lot to have considered thoughts like these when I was a teen. And teens can handle it. My belief is that adults should share this kind of wisdom with young people. I suggest that you share some of the quotes above with your child and perhaps talk about how they apply in their life.
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