“Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas.” ― Epictetus
Fate: Destiny or a perceived destiny.
Healthy Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
Unhealthy Desire: A disproportionate feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
Impulse: Unreflective and indifferent urge or desire to act resulting in disregard. (Not to be confused with suppressing emotions.)
Epictetus (55–135 C.E.) was a Greek slave who lived in Rome. His master allowed him to study philosophy, and eventually, he was granted his freedom. The Enchiridion (The Essential Guide), is an outline of his philosophy, compiled by one of his students. He is considered one of the great Stoics.
Epictetus taught his students that each human life is a combination of things that a person can control and things that a person cannot control. He used his own fate, being born to slavery, as an example, enlightening his pupils to the awareness that all persons are slaves of fate. A great deal of one’s destiny is outside of their control. But not all.
The paradox of fate is that while one cannot control true fate (that which is outside of himself), one can control their personal judgement, opinion, and beliefs about their fate thereby managing (having control) the uncontrollable fate.
“Circumstances do not make the individual, they only reveal him to himself.” - Epictetus
The root of discomfort and unhappiness is the breach between how one believes things should be and the reality. When reality is immovable or fixed, there are two possible choices with two possible results; unhappiness or a adjustment of beliefs about the predicament (expectation management). Assent is the virtue of living in harmony, not by changing reality but by living in agreement with it.
By no measure is this suggesting that one should not have ambition, but rather objectively review, realize, and understand what one has before scrutinizing what one lacks. Desiring what you already possess eliminates internal disharmony.
“Survey a prospective action before undertaking it. Before you proceed, step back and look at the big picture, lest you act rashly on misguided impulse.” -Epictetus
Epictetus says one must pay special attention to their sphere of impulses. It is necessary to be aware, evaluate each impulse against intent, value, and consequence.
“Whoever is going to listen to the philosophers first needs a considerable practice in listening.” ― Epictetus
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