“If you want something good, get it from yourself.
As the old saying goes, „Be the change you want to see in the world."
Epictetus, one of the most influential philosophers in Stoicism, left us with timeless wisdom through his works, including the Discourses and Enchiridion. Despite his profound insights, his works weren’t very popular during his lifetime.
Epictetus was a man born into poverty and slavery around 50 AD. He was later transferred to Rome and eventually banished, leading him to spend the rest of his life on the streets of Nicopolis in northwestern Greece.
Epictetus wasn’t a popular man; he lacked great possessions or power. The only things he had were his works and his belief in philosophy. He advocated for a way of living where everything should be accepted calmly and rationally. His works emphasized the importance of reflecting honestly on what’s within your control and what isn’t, guiding his life choices accordingly.
He never complained about being punished as a slave nor when banished from Rome. He maintained control of his life, seeing the world as it was and acting based on that observation.
This is commitment; this is self-discipline. Here are three strategies for how you can be more like Epictetus in your life 2,000 years later. It all comes down to the simple three-step formula: Plan - Execute - Refine.
"First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do."
Epictetus could have never written his works on philosophy if he hadn’t actively decided to do so. He claimed this was something for him to do, and then he just did it. But the first part is really important.
We all get caught up in life sometimes and miss the things we truly care about. Have you missed a friend’s party because you were busy with other things? Have you gone on at least three runs a week as you said you would? Did you make family time a clear priority in your calendar or was something in the way?
If any of these situations sound familiar, don’t feel bad; we have all been there. But, there is a simple way to change this, and it is refined in one single word: Prioritization.
Why do we miss things we care about? The answer is that we don’t make time for them. We get lost in unnecessary things like reading emails, scrolling through TikTok, or arguing about the weather.
These things are all outside of our control, something that Epictetus wouldn’t have wasted one neutron of his brain thinking about.
To do more of the things that matter to us, we need to have a vision and a plan for what that is. Here is a simple way to do exactly that:
- 🤔 Think of your 3-5 most important goals for the year. Mine look something like this:
- ✏️ Write 1,000 words a day
- 🏃Run a half-marathon
- 📕Read 40 books
- ❤️ Go on at least two date nights a month
- 📆 Plan your week around it. Create an ideal week where you make time for the progression of your goals.
- 🌅 Reflect. More about it in step 3 refine.
Once you have your plan, there is only one thing that follows: Execute it.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
The number one stoic belief is that you need to be responsible for your actions and take care of your way of living. Only by choosing what aligns with your goal, you can achieve luck in life.
We have learned that we need to remove distractions from our environments and create a plan which we need to follow. What is even more important is this:
- 🕰️ Progress takes time.
Don’t expect great success after one week, one month, or even one year of doing something. YouTubers like MrBeast have posted hundreds of videos before a few hundred people had considered subscribing to his channel. Stay calm and keep going on your mission.
- ✅ Failure is a learning opportunity.
Failing on your journey isn’t a bad thing; it’s the best thing that can happen to us. We all want to improve. But how does improvement work? You improve by doing something better than before, and you’ll learn that you need to do something better through failure.
- 💪 Make discipline a habit.
Discipline walks you through thick and thin. It does help you in every way of living. But discipline is also something we need to practice and cultivate. Set small goals but learn to follow them. Reading only one page a day is better than none. Running only half a mile is better than nothing. It doesn’t really matter how much you do of something; it matters that you do it. Practice discipline, and you’ll be rewarded!
Execution is hard for gaining control over your life, but as we learned with failure, you always need to refine your system to succeed.
"We should every night call ourselves to an account: what infirmity have I mastered today? what passions opposed? what temptation resisted? what virtue acquired?"
Seneca, a stoic philosopher from Ancient Rome, was a strong believer that only through clear reflection can you master yourself. Reflection or, in other words, refinement, is what brings improvement. Failure opens up the door to reflection, and you need to leap. Leap admitting falsehood in your day, leap acknowledging your wins and losses. Only then will you be truly accountable for your actions, and only then will you accept that your faith lies in your hands and not in those of others.
Sit down every week and ask yourself these questions:
- 🎯 Name your 3–5 goals for the year. You do this to remember what you want to accomplish and to have a clear destination in your head.
- 🚀 Review the previous week’s accomplishments. Seeing what was good in the past reminds you that life is filled with good moments. Realizing this massively changed my mood towards the next week because I knew there was something to work for.
- 🏋️ What were your challenges last week? Learning from your mistakes and challenges helps you understand how you can deal with certain situations in life. It is incredibly important to keep these in mind to act correctly in situations where it is important.
- 🥇 Top 3 outcomes for next week. As with yearly goals, it is essential to set little weekly goals which you can look forward to achieving.
Engage with them deeply and consider adding a few more. It’s all about seeing that you live in a world, full of temptations and distractions. See them as evil and focus, and prioritize what’s important to you. Write this down.
Plan it. Execute it. Reflect on it. Then you will be the master of your life.
General information on Epictetus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epictetus
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Thanks again and I'll see you soon.
✍️ Quote of the week
“A Stoic doesn't control the world, but they control always how they respond to the world. So it's a really great philosophy if you're doing something ambitious. If you're a leader or an athlete or a poet or a politician, it's there for the stresses of life.”
― Ryan Holiday, Bestselling Author
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