Life-changing Stoic advice

01 June 2018 - inspiration

What is stoicism and what’s so great about it?

Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of philosophy practised by famous thinkers such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. The teachings of Stoicism revolve around issues such as our perception of time, external events and happiness.

One of the main tenets of the philosophy is that external things are not good or bad in themselves—it is how we think of them that matters. In short, Stoicism offers us a unique perspective of what constitutes a good life—one without unnecessary suffering by letting go of what we can’t control.

Everyday Stoicism 

With its straightforward and practical teachings, it’s no surprise that this ancient philosophy has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with many using it as a modern tool for a multitude of issues, from inspiring mental and emotional resilience, to creating a sense of purpose and joy.

Here are some of the best Stoic sayings that have inspired us.

On the power of perspective:

“A man is as miserable as he thinks he is.” – Seneca

“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgement about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgement now.” – Marcus Aurelius

“We are more frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

“Many of the anxieties that harass you are superfluous: being but creatures of your own fancy, you can rid yourself of them and expand into an ampler region, letting your thought sweep over the entire universe, contemplating the illimitable tracts of eternity.” – Marcus Aurelius

“You can discard most of the junk that clutters your mind…and clear out space for yourself…by comprehending the scale of the world…by contemplating infinite time…by thinking of the speed with which things change.” – Marcus Aurelius

On control and letting go:

“We should always be asking ourselves: Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?” Take a lyre player: he’s relaxed when he performs alone, but put him in front of an audience, and it’s a different story, no matter how beautiful his voice or how well he plays the instrument. Why? Because he not only wants to perform well, he wants to be well-received—and the latter lies outside his control.” – Epictetus

“You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

On gratitude and satisfaction to gain inner peace:

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius

“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” – Seneca

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.” - Seneca

On challenges:

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man without trials.” – Seneca

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.” – Seneca

“You are unfortunate in my judgement, for you have never been unfortunate. You have passed through life with no antagonist to face you; no one will know what you were capable of, not even yourself.” – Seneca

“No man was ever wise by chance.” – Seneca

On criticism:

“If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself, you should say: ‘He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned.’” – Epictetus

“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realise that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.” – Marcus Aurelius

“If you judge, investigate.” – Seneca

“No one is laughable who laughs at himself.” – Seneca

On time and perspective:

“Keep the prospect of death…and all such apparent tragedies before you every day and you will never have an abject thought, or desire anything to excess.” – Epictetus

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” – Marcus Aurelius

“We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.” – Seneca

“Remember: Matter. How tiny your share of it. Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it. Fate. How small a role you play in it.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Time heals what reason cannot.’ – Seneca

“Life is long if you know how to use it.” – Seneca

On purpose and freedom:

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.” – Seneca

“Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another’s, and their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.” – Seneca

“We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be.” – Seneca

“That man is happy, whose reason recommends to him the whole posture of his affairs.” - Seneca

On how to live:

“Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.” – Seneca

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” – Seneca

“If you wish to be loved, love.” – Seneca

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” – Seneca

“Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who…organises every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from his life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold. So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long.” – Seneca

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” – Seneca

On happiness:

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius

“If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his: for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.” – Seneca

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.” – Epictetus

“Those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.” – Marcus Aurelius

Which is your favourite quote? Let us know at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team