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Quotations: Stoicism & Stoics

Complain About Nothing But Yourself


Stoicism Quotations to Help You Cope & Live Sanely

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you find strength.” ―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” —Seneca

“A man ought to be seen by the gods neither dissatisfied with anything nor complaining.” —Marcus Aurelius

“A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.” —Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A thing is neither better nor worse for having been praised.” ―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations IV.20

“Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice.” —Marcus Aurelius

“All that is in accord with you is in accord with me, O World! Nothing which occurs at the right time for you comes too soon or too late for me. All that your seasons produce, O Nature, is fruit for me. It is from you that all things come: all things are within you, and all things move toward you.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“And consider if magnanimity, freedom, simplicity, equanimity, piety, are not more agreeable.” —Marcus Aurelius

“And then, examine it by those rules which you have, and find, and chiefly by this: whether it concerns the things which are in our control, or those which are not; and if it concerns anything not in our control, be prepared to say that is nothing to you.” —Epictetus

“Anger is like those ruins which smash themselves on what they fall.” —Seneca

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” —Epictetus

“As the sense of pain is a characteristic of weakness, so also is anger.” —Marcus Aurelius

“As was his language, so was his life.” —Seneca

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness—all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law—and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“But do not of your own accord make your troubles heavier to bear and burden yourself with complaining.” —Seneca

“But if anything in thy own disposition gives thee pain, who hinders thee from correcting thy opinion?” —Marcus Aurelius

“But I, unless I think that what has happened is an evil, am not injured. And it is in my power not to think so.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Character is destiny.” —Heraclitus

“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Consider how much more pain is brought on us by the anger and vexation caused by such acts than by the acts themselves, at which we are angry and vexed.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Curb your desire—don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need.” —Epictetus

“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens, happens the way it happens: then you will be happy.” —Epictetus

“Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.” —Epictetus

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” —Epictetus

“Don’t regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours.” —Epictetus, Enchiridion

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.” —Epictetus

“Each day provides its own gifts.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” —Seneca

“Every night before going to sleep, we must ask ourselves: what weakness did I overcome today? What virtue did I acquire?” —Seneca

“Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.” —Seneca

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” —Epictetus

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

“For a man can lose neither the past nor the future; for how can one take from him that which is not his?” —Marcus Aurelius

“For he who yields to pain and he who yields to anger, both are wounded, and both submit.” —Marcus Aurelius

“For if thou canst, correct that which is the cause; but if thou canst not do this, correct at least the thing itself; but if thou canst not do even this, of what use is it to thee to find fault.” —Marcus Aurelius

“For since reason alone brings man to perfection, reason alone, when perfected, makes man happy.” —Seneca

“For who is he that shall hinder thee from being good and simple?” —Marcus Aurelius

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.” —Epictetus, The Art of Living

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

“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a man who is alive.” —Seneca

“His own character is the arbiter of everyone’s fortune.” —Publius Syrus (42 B.C.)

“How does it help to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?” —Seneca

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best of yourself?” —Epictetus

“How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them?” —Marcus Aurelius

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.” —Cato

“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

“If a man knows not for which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” —Seneca

“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet, you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled—have you no shame in that?” —Epictetus

“If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” —Marcus Aurelius

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would have not mentioned these alone.’” —Epictetus

“If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.” —Epictetus

“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” —Marcus Aurelius

“If my body is enslaved, still my mind is free.” —Sophocles

“If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it.” —Marcus Aurelius

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it: and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121–180), Roman philosopher and emperor

“If you desire any of the things which are not in your own control, you must necessarily be disappointed.” —Epictetus

“If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase.” —Epictetus

“If you undertake a role beyond your means, you will not only embarrass yourself in that, you miss the chance of a role that you might have filled successfully.” —Epictetus, Enchiridion 37

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” —Epictetus

“If you wish for anything which belongs to another, that which is your own is lost.” —Epictetus

“If you would escape your troubles, you need not another place but another personality.” —Seneca

“In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Is it possible to be free from error? Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person always stretching to avoid error. For we must be content to at least escape a few mistakes by never letting our attention slide.” —Epictetus

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” —Epictetus

“It is not men’s acts which disturb us, for those acts have their foundation in men’s ruling principles, but it is our own opinions which disturb us.” —Marcus Aurelius

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” —Seneca

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.” —Seneca

“It takes trickery to cultivate approval. You have to make yourself like them. If I see you much acclaimed by everyone, how can I help pitying you? For I know what road one must have taken to gain such popularity.” —Seneca

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” —Epictetus

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” –Marcus Aurelius

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.” —Epictetus

“Learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book XI

“Let not your mind run on what you lack as much as on what you have already.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Let’s be kinder to one another; we’re just wicked people living among wicked people. Only one thing can give us peace, and that’s a pact of mutual leniency.” —Seneca

“Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” —Seneca

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” —Epictetus

“Men are born for each other so either teach or tolerate.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.” —Epictetus

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” —Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher

“Moreover, the child of parents who have a bad relationship will be unfilial. This is natural. Even the birds and beasts are affected by what they are used to seeing and hearing from the time they are born. Also, the relationship between father and child may deteriorate because of a mother’s foolishness. A mother loves her child above all things, and will be partial to the child that is corrected by his father. If she becomes the child’s ally, there will be discord between father and son. Because of the shallowness of her mind, a woman sees the child as her support in old age.” ―Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

“Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” —Seneca

“Never say of anything that I have lost it, only say that I have given it back.” —Epictetus

“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

“Nor, again, can the will be right without a right attitude of mind; for this is the source of will.” —Seneca

“Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” —Epicurus

“Nothing can provoke one’s anger if one does not add to one’s pile of troubles by getting angry.” —Seneca

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.” —Seneca

“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” —Epictetus

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, Book IV

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” —Seneca

“Practical wisdom is the foundation of all things and is the greatest good. Thus practical wisdom is more valuable than theoretical philosophy and is the source of every other excellence, teaching us that it is not possible to live joyously without also living wisely and beautifully and rightly, nor to live wisely and beautifully and rightly without living joyously. For the virtues grow up together with the pleasant life, and the pleasant life is inseparable from them.” —Epicurus, Letter to Menoikos

“Practice is everything.” —Periander, Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius [misquoted as “practice makes perfect”]

“Practice then from the start to say to every harsh impression, ‘You are an impression, and not at all the thing you appear to be.’ Then examine it and test it by these rules you have, and firstly, and chiefly, by this: whether the impression has to do with the things that are up to us, or those that are not; and if it has to do with the things that are not up to us, be ready to reply, ‘It is nothing to me.’” —Epictetus

“Praise the quality in him which cannot be given or snatched away, that which is the peculiar property of the man. Do you ask what this is? It is soul, and reason brought to perfection in the soul. For man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained, if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world—to live in accordance with his own nature. But this is turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one another into vice. And how can a man be recalled to salvation, when he has none to restrain him, and all mankind to urge him on?” —Seneca

“Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.” —Epictetus

“Put from you the belief that ‘I have been wronged,’ and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, Book IV

“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.” —Seneca

“Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Remember that it is not he who reviles you or strikes you, who insults you, but it is your opinion about these things as being insulting. When then a man irritates you, you must know that it is your opinion which has irritated you.” —Epictetus, Enchiridion

“Resolve to dismiss thy judgment about an act as if it were something grievous and thy anger is gone.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” —Horace, Roman poet

“Self-command is the greatest command of all.” —Seneca

“Sickness is a hindrance to the body, but not to your ability to choose, unless that is your choice. Lameness is a hindrance to the leg, but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens, then you will see such obstacles as hindrances to something else, but not to yourself.” —Epictetus, Enchiridion

“So I look for the best and am prepared for the opposite.” ―Seneca, Letter LXXXVIII

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” —Seneca

“Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Take away thy opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint.” —Marcus Aurelius

“That which is evil to thee and harmful has its foundation only in the mind.” —Marcus Aurelius

“That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.” —Epictetus

“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” —Marcus Aurelius

“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

“The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person is that he never expects either benefit or hurt from himself, but from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is that he expects all hurt and benefit from himself.” —Lucretius

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” —Seneca

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” —Marcus Aurelius

“The gods have released you from accountability for your parents, your siblings, your body, your possessions—for death and for life itself. They made you responsible only for what is in your power—the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burden of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.” —Epictetus

“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

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” —Epictetus

“The mind is never right but when it is at peace with itself.” —Seneca

“The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.” —Epicurus

“The origin of sorrow is this: to wish for something that does not come to pass.” —Epictetus, Discourses

“The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind’s proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions.” —Epictetus, Discourses, 4.11.6-7

“The things you really need are few and easy to come by; but the thing you can imagine you need are infinite, and you will never be satisfied.” —Epicurus

“The time when most of you should withdraw into yourself is when you are forced to be in a crowd.” —Epicurus

“The trouble is that, so long as the object of our desire is wanting, it seems more important than anything else; but later, when it is ours, we covet some other thing; and so an insatiable thirst for life keeps us always open-mouthed.” —Lucretius

“The universe is change; life is an opinion.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“There is no misery unless there be something in the universe which he thinks miserable.” —Seneca

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” —Epictetus

“Things can never touch the soul, but stand inert outside it, so that disquiet can arise only from fancies within.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, Book IV

“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

“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.” —Seneca

“Thou are injuring thyself, my child.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Thoughts are mightier than strength of hand.” —Sophocles, Phaedra

“To accuse others for one’s own misfortune 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.” —Epictetus

“To move from one unselfish action to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness.” —Marcus Aurelius

“To rule yourself is the ultimate power.” —Seneca

“To think that being righteous is the best one can do and to do one’s utmost to be righteous will, on the contrary, bring many mistakes. The way is in a higher place than righteousness.” ―Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

“Today I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside, but within and in my opinions.” —Marcus Aurelius

“Untamed horses are useless, but horsemen can in a short time make them submissive and manageable. Can you not take and tame this thing which is not some beast from outside yourself but an irrational power within your soul, a dwelling it shares at every moment with your power of reason? Even if you cannot tame it quickly, can you not do so over a longer period of time? It would be a terrible thing if you could not.” —Galen, On The Passions

“Very little is needed for everything to be upset and ruined, only a slight lapse in reason.” —Epictetus

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

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.” —Marcus Aurelius

“We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others.” —La Rochefoucauld

“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” —Seneca

“We can complain of nothing but ourselves.” —Seneca

“We must take care of our minds because we cannot benefit from beauty when our brains are missing.” —Euripides, fragment

“We shall prevent ourselves from becoming angry if we repeatedly place before our eyes all anger’s faults and from a proper judgment of it.” —Seneca

“We should always be asking ourselves: Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?” —Epictetus

“We shouldn’t control anger, but destroy it entirely—for what control is there for a thing that’s fundamentally wicked?” —Seneca

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” —Seneca

“Well, then, is it not better to use what is in thy power like a free man than to desire in a slavish and abject way what is not in thy power?” —Marcus Aurelius

“What else are tragedies but the ordeals of people who have come to value externals, tricked out in tragic verse?” —Epictetus, Discourses I, 4.26

“When a man has done thee any wrong, immediately consider with what opinion about good or evil he has done wrong. For when thou hast seen this, thou will pity him, and wilt neither wonder nor be angry.” —Marcus Aurelius

“When in pain remember that it brings no dishonor and that it does not weaken the governing intelligence. Pain is neither everlasting nor intolerable; it has its limits if you add nothing by imagination.” —Marcus Aurelius 

“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.” ―Epictetus, Discourses I, 21.1

“When we act pugnaciously, and injuriously, and angrily, and rudely, to what level have we degenerated? To the level of the wild beasts. Well, the fact is that some of us are wild beasts of a larger size, while others are little animals, malignant and petty.” —Epictetus, Discourses

“Whenever we do something wrong, then, from now on we will not blame anything except the opinion on which it’s based; and we will try to root out wrong opinions with more determination than we remove tumors or infections from the body. By the same token, we will acknowledge opinion as the source of our good behavior too. But wife, child, slave or neighbor—in the future we won’t name any of them as authors of the evil in our lives, in the knowledge that, unless we judge things in a particular light, we won’t act in a corresponding manner. And we, not externals, are the masters of our judgments.” —Epictetus, Discourses

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” —Euripides, Antigone

“Winter brings the cold and we must shiver; summer brings back the heat and we have to swelter. Bad weather tries the health and we have to be ill. Somewhere or other we are going to have encounters with wild beasts, and with [people], too,—more dangerous than all these beasts. Floods will rob us of one thing, fire of another. These are conditions of our existence which we cannot change. What we can do is adopt a noble spirit, such a spirit as befits a good [person], so that we may bear up bravely under all that fortune sends us and bring our wills into tune with nature’s; reversals, after all, are the means by which nature regulates this visible realm of hers; clear skies follow cloudy; after the calm comes the storm; the winds take turns to blow; day succeeds night; while part of the heavens is in the ascendant, another is sinking. It is by means of opposites that eternity endures.” —Seneca

“Words are opinion, not fact. Action is the only truth.” ―Origin unknown, but often attributed to Marcus Aurelius without providing a source.

“Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.” —Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

“Work is the sustenance of noble minds.” —Seneca

“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.” ―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“You can only be a ‘victim’ of yourself. It’s all how you discipline your mind.” —Epictetus

“You can’t step into the same river twice.” —Heraclitus

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” —Marcus Aurelius

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you find strength.” ―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious.” —Marcus Aurelius

“You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, ‘What are your thinking about?’ you can respond at once and truthfully that you are thinking this or thinking that.” —Marcus Aurelius

“You will learn that men have chosen their own troubles.” —Pythagoras

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” —Marcus Aurelius


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