Epictetus Discourses Summary
Today there’s thousands upon thousands of self-help books on Amazon and covering the shelves of your local bookstore…
The vast majority of these books are all very similiar, re-hashing and rewording a few key concepts while being marketed as the ultimate guide to transforming your life. 99% of those books are a waste of your time and money.
Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus is the polar opposite.
Original, ancient lessons to achieve your goals and conquer adversity from in my eyes the greatest Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.
You won’t find this book anywhere near the best sellers or anywhere that’s particularly visible in your local bookstore.
This book costs a few dollars and it will literally change your life.
Below you’ll find my summary on this book, be sure to pick up your own copy and ink and highlight the pages until your heart is content.
‘Discourses and Selected Writings‘ is a paradigm shift, don’t view the messages and quotes in this book as pessimistic or negative, this book is loaded with hard truths, use it to serve as a reminder to yourself and refer to it often…
My Epictetus Discourses Summary
FOCUS ON WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR POWER
“Make the best use of what is in our power, and treat the rest in accordance with its nature”
All we can control are our thoughts and our actions, we can’t control the weather or the actions of others.
Time spend worrying and attempting to influence things outside of our control is a waste of your time and energy.
Time and energy are finite and must be spend wisely on what we can control.
If you’re building a business focus on acquiring customers instead of the tax changes coming at the end of the financial year that’re outside of your control.
If you’re transforming your focus focus on how hard you’re training and dieting instead of focusing on your genetics, as they are outside of your control.
DEATH IS INEVITABLE
“I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later”
Tomorrow is not guaranteed, your age is not a means of knowing how many days you have left to live.
A healthy 85 year old man could outlive a 25 year old that has given in to a life a substance abuse and poor eating habits…
A 70 year old woman could outlive a 21 year old model who may fall victim to a freak accident in the near future.
Stop thinking you have 40, 50, 60 or 70 years left.
Don’t let this get you down… let this motivate you.
If you have big dreams and big goals, which if you’re reading this blog I know you damn well do… well then you better get to work as time is against you (another reason why you need to focus on what YOU can control – your thoughts and actions).
DON’T ATTACH VALUE TO MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
“We get angry because we put too high a premium on things that they can steal. Don’t attach such value to your clothes, and you won’t get angry with the thief who takes them.”
Don’t identify yourself by a car, a shirt or a house.
Consumerism is all about stuff, buy this, buy that, upgrade that… you’re lead to believe what you currently have is never good enough.
When you buy something new you’ll get a brief hit of happiness, but this doesn’t last long and once it’s gone you revert back to your baseline level of happiness, which creates the never ending cycle. You buy more and more and more. Each time you buy a new object you get that hit but it never lasts, you soon find yourself with barely enough room to store the shit you wasted your money on that’s now cluttering your house as well as your mind. Just like fight club, eventually your stuff will own you if you follow this path.
The best method of increasing your overall happiness is to go long term. Forget about that thing you want today, tomorrow or next week. Set your big, audacious goals – month long goals, year long goals. Wake up every day with a purpose and align your actions with your goals. Whether this be a body fat percentage, the podium finish in a Spartan race, doubling your websites page views per day. Whatever it is that excites you and motivates you to put the work in.
Value your progress and the actions you’re taking… not the physical objects you own or rent.
YOU CAN ONLY LOSE WHAT YOU HAVE
“A man only loses what he has. Loss and sorrow are only possible with respect to things we own.”
Once again, the more you attach yourself to things the more susceptible you are to loss.
Do not place value on things.
DON’T LOOK OUTSIDE FOR APPROVAL
“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.”
An athlete and a musician both perform their craft in front of colossal crowds of spectators… and just like you and I, these individuals can only control their actions and their thoughts.
They can control their performance, be it on the field or on the flute… they cannot control the reaction or the reception of the audience.
While you’re on your journey you must take action with laser-like focus, the only approval you need is your own. You know you’re giving it your all and taking another step in the direction of your goals with each passing day.
Do not seek or entertain the opinion of others.
THE TRUE MAN IS REVEALED IN DIFFICULT TIMES
“The true man is revealed in difficult times”
What a man says and what a man does are often two different things.
Your values and mindset will only be tested when your struggling to stay above the surface, when things are going well it’s easy to be positive and cheerful, it’s easy to be optimistic when you’re making perfect progress.
It’s a whole different ballgame when things take a turn for the worse. When you lose your job, when you lose a loved one, when your health deteriorates, when you fall short of your goal.
This is when you’ll truly be tested.
DON’T WISH FOR AN EASY LIFE
“Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen; this is the path to peace.”
You must subject yourself to uncomfortable, testing situations both physically and mentally to find peace and happiness.
I find peace in placing a 315lb barbell on my back and squatting to the point of utter exhaustion, I find happiness in the mid-way point of a 6 round workout on the heavy bag.
Without both self-subjected stressors and the curve balls that life throws at you you will not find the happiness, peace and fulfilment that many imagine to come from a life of zero resistance where no effort is exerted and no roadblocks are encountered.
My Top 5 Epictetus Discourses Quotes
“Where can I go to escape death in any case? Tell me the country, give me the name of the people who are safe from death, where I can get asylum; provide me with the magic charm. No, I cannot escape death, but at least I can escape the fear of it.”
“Whenever I see a person suffering from nervousness, I think, well, what can he expect? If he had not set his sights on things outside man’s control, his nervousness would end at once”
“We are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible. The former include our judgement, our impulse, our desire, aversion and our mental faculties in general; the latter include the body, material possessions, our reputation, status – in a word, anything not in our power to control. The former are naturally free, unconstrained and unimpeded, while the latter are frail, inferior, subject to restraint – and none of our affair.”
“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgement concerning them.”
“Remember that you are an actor in a play, the nature of which is up to the director to decide. If he wants the play to be short, it will be short, if he wants it long, it will be long. And if he casts you as one of the poor, or as a cripple, as a king or as a commoner – what role is assigned, the accomplished actor will accept and perform it with impartial skill. but the assignment of roles belongs to another.”