Designing the Mind

The 35 Best Stoic Quotes

From EPICTETUS, SENECA, and MARCUS Aurelius

THE 35 BEST STOIC QUOTES

The ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BCE, and its ideas were further developed by later philosophers including the Greek slave Epictetus, Seneca the Younger, and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Stoicism advocated for seeking satisfaction in life, not through the satisfaction of one’s appetites, but through their relinquishment. The school of thought placed strong emphasis on the sharp distinction between circumstances which are in the control of the individual and those which are beyond it.

 

The internet is full of fake quotes, but I have gone to significant lengths to ensure that all Stoic quotes on this site are accurately attributed. So feel free to save, share, and meditate on any of the quotes here that resonate with you with the knowledge that they are authentic. I hope you find as much value in them as I have

Of all existing things some are in our power, and others are not in our power. In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which is our own doing. Things not in our power include the body, property, reputation, office, and in a word, everything which is not our own doing. Things in our power are by nature free, unhindered, untrammeled; things not in our power are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, dependent on others.

—Epictetus, Enchiridion

There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and your life will be serene.

—Epictetus, Enchiridion

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Freedom is not achieved by satisfying desire, but by eliminating it. Assure yourself of this by expending as much effort on these new ambitions as you did on those illusive goals: work day and night to attain a liberated frame of mind.

—Epictetus, Discourses

There is no more reliable proof of greatness than to be in a state where nothing can happen to make you disturbed.

—Seneca, On Anger

Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.

—Epictetus, Enchiridion

Philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak; it exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with all his activities. This, I say, is the highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom—that deed and word should be in accord, that a man should be equal to himself under all conditions, and always the same.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

I am so firmly determined, however, to test the constancy of your mind that, drawing from the teachings of great men, I shall give you also a lesson: Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Be like a headland of rock on which the waves break incessantly; but it stands fast and around it the seething of the waters sink to rest.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

My mind represents for me my medium – like wood to a carpenter, or leather to a shoemaker.

—Epictetus, Discourses

I should never think of any external event, or any impression that follows from an external event, as forcing me to consider it in one way or in another. The mind is not passively moved about by objects, but is rather an active principle that forms a conscious awareness of those objects. I can react in my own way, based upon my own judgment, and there is the good and the bad in it relative to me. There is a liberation from the burden of conditions here, an embrace of true freedom in the face of outside forces.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The greatest remedy for anger is delay: beg anger to grant you this at the first, not in order that it may pardon the offense, but that it may form a right judgment about it – if it delays, it will come to an end… In the lowest recess of the heart let it be hidden away, and let it not drive, but be driven. Moreover, let us change all its symptoms into the opposite: let the expression on our faces be relaxed, our voices gentler, our steps more measured; little by little outer features mold inner ones.

—Seneca, On Anger

Remember too on every occasion which leads thee to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

For God’s sake, stop honoring externals, quit turning yourself into the tool of mere matter, or of people who can supply you or deny you those material things… A boxer derives the greatest advantage from his sparring partner… It is enough if I hold the right idea about poverty, illness and removal from office: all such challenges will only serve my turn. No more, then, should I look for bad, and good, in external conditions.

—Epictetus, Discourses

Many such things will present themselves, not pleasing to every man, but only to him who has become truly familiar with nature and her works.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Surely every man will want to restrain any impulse towards anger when he realizes that it begins by inflicting harm, firstly, on himself! In the case of those who give full rein to anger and consider it a proof of strength, who think the opportunity for revenge belongs among the great blessings of great fortune, do you not, then, want me to point out to them that a man who is the prisoner of his own anger, so far from being powerful, cannot even be called free.

—Seneca, On Anger

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.

—Epictetus, Discourses

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

—Epictetus, Discourses

It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be disturbed in our soul. For things themselves have no natural power to form our judgments.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The faculty of desire purports to aim at securing what you want…If you fail in your desire, you are unfortunate, if you experience what you would rather avoid you are unhappy…For desire, suspend it completely for now. Because if you desire something outside your control, you are bound to be disappointed; and even things we do control, which under other circumstances would be deserving of our desire, are not yet within our power to attain. Restrict yourself to choice and refusal; and exercise them carefully, within discipline and detachment.”

—Epictetus, Enchiridion

This is how we should act throughout life: where there are things that seem worthy of great estimation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. For the outward show [of things] is a wonderful perverter of reason, and when we are certain the things we are dealing with are worth the trouble, that is when it cheats us most.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

To see them from above: the thousands of animal herds, the rituals, the voyages on calm or stormy seas, the different ways we come into the world, share it with one another, and leave it. Consider the lives led once by others, long ago, the lives to be led by others after you, the lives led even now, in foreign lands. How many people don’t even know your name. How many will soon have forgotten it. How many offer you praise now-and tomorrow, perhaps contempt.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There are more things likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.”

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

It’s something like going on an ocean voyage. What can I do? Pick the captain, the boat, the date, and the best time to sail. But then a storm hits…What are my options? I do the only thing I am in a position to do, drown—but fearlessly, without bawling or crying out to God, because I know that what is born must also die.”

—Epictetus, Discourses

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise, it cannot harm you — inside or out.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

For more life-changing ideas, quotations, and affirmations, get the free paperback of The Book of Self Mastery.

Copyright Designing the Mind © 2022

Privacy Policy and Terms