The Manual For Living

Updated: February 24, 2020

Epictetus' Manual for Living is a short manual of stoic ethical advice on how to live a full life.

Favorite quotes from this timeless piece of classic literature:

"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."

"You are but an impression, and not at all what you seem to be."

"If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that you are kissing a human being, for then if death strikes it you will not be disturbed."

"What disturbs men's minds is not events but their judgments on events."

"And so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgments. To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete."

"Be not elated at an excellence which is not your own. If the horse in his pride were to say, 'I am handsome,' we could bear with it. But when you say with pride, 'I have a handsome horse,' know that the good horse is the ground of your pride. You ask then what you can call your own."

"Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace."

"When anything happens to you, always remember to turn to yourself and ask what faculty you have to deal with it."

"Never say of anything, 'I lost it,' but say, 'I gave it back.' Has your child died? It was given back. Has your wife died? She was given back. Has your estate been taken from you? Was not this also given back? But you say, 'He who took it from me is wicked.' What does it matter to you through whom the Giver asked it back? As long as He gives it you, take care of it, but not as your own; treat it as passers-by treat an inn."

"If you wish to make progress, you must be content in external matters to seem a fool and a simpleton..."

"It is silly to want your children and your wife and your friends to live for ever, for that means that you want what is not in your control to be in your control, and what is not your own to be yours."

"Exercise yourself then in what lies in your power. Each man's master is the man who has authority over what he wishes or does not wish, to secure the one or to take away the other. Let him then who wishes to be free not wish for anything or avoid anything that depends on others; or else he is bound to be a slave."

"Remember that you must behave in life as you would at a banquet. A dish is handed round and comes to you; put out your hand and take it politely. It passes you; do not stop it. It has not reached you; do not be impatient to get it, but wait till your turn comes. Bear yourself thus towards children, wife, office, wealth, and one day you will be worthy to banquet with the gods. But if when they are set before you, you do not take them but despise them, then you shall not only share the gods' banquet, but shall share their rule."

"You can be invincible, if you never enter on a contest where victory is not in your power."

"there is but one way to freedom - to despise what is not in our power."

"Remember that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgment that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you."

"Keep before your eyes from day to day death and exile and all things that seem terrible, but death most of all, and then you will never set your thoughts on what is low and will never desire anything beyond measure."

"Remember that if you want to get what is not in your power, you cannot earn the same reward as others unless you act as they do."

"You were not invited to some one's entertainment? Because you did not give the host the price for which he sells his dinner. He sells it for compliments, he sells it for attentions. Pay him the price then, if it is to your profit. But if you wish to get the one and yet not give up the other, nothing can satisfy you in your folly."

"For if the event is not in our control, it cannot be either good or evil."

"Be silent for the most part, or, if you speak, say only what is necessary and in a few words."

"Talk, but rarely, if occasion calls you, but do not talk of ordinary things of gladiators, or horse-races, or athletes, or of meats or drinks - these are topics that arise everywhere - but above all do not talk about men in blame or compliment or comparison."

"Refuse to take oaths, altogether if that be possible, but if not, as far as circumstances allow."

"If some one tells you that so and so speaks ill of you, do not defend yourself against what he says,but answer, 'He did not know my other faults, or he would not have mentioned these alone.'"

"In your conversation avoid frequent and disproportionate mention of your own doings or adventures; for other people do not take the same pleasure in hearing what has happened to you as you take in recounting your adventures."

"When you do a thing because you have determined that it ought to be done, never avoid being seen doing it, even if the opinion of the multitude is going to condemn you. For if your action is wrong, then avoid doing it altogether, but if it is right, why do you fear those who will rebuke you wrongly?"

"On no occasion call yourself a philosopher, nor talk at large of your principles among the multitude, but act on your principles."

"Do the same yourself; instead of displaying your principles to the multitude, show them the results of the principles you have digested."

"Do not embrace statues."

"The ignorant man's position and character is this: he never looks to himself for benefit or harm, but to the world outside him. The philosopher's position and character is that he always looks to himself for benefit and harm."

"The signs of one who is making progress are: he blames none, praises none, complains of none, accuses none, never speaks of himself as if he were somebody, or as if he knew anything. And if any one compliments him he laughs in himself at his compliment; and if one blames him, he makes no defense."