Simple Stoic Advice
The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.
Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Epictetus, Enchiridion, entry 34:
“When you get an external impression of some pleasure, guard yourself, as with impressions in general, against being carried away by it; nay, let the matter wait upon your leisure, and give yourself a little delay. Next think of the two periods of time, first, that in which you will enjoy your pleasure, and second, that in which, after the enjoyment is over, you will later repent and revile your own self; and set over against these two periods of time how much joy and self-satisfaction you will get if you refrain.”
We have all been there. We’ve all been in a situation where we become emotionally embroiled in the situation before us and we immediately respond. Most of the time, we respond with emotion rather than logic.
This is not new. The majority of the things that we dealt with today people have been dealing with for thousands of years.
Thomas Jefferson, who himself had read the Stoics, once wrote:
“When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.”
Here, Epictetus advises the same. When we are strongly pulled by our impressions, rather than run away with them, we should sit back and try to give ourselves some distance so as to view it objectively. If not, we run the risk of being caught up in the moment and doing things that may not be as productive as we may have wanted.
Pleasures are nice in a moment, but quickly fade. Just look at anyone who loves to shop. They feel great when they get to make the purchase. But within a few days, the feeling has faded, and there is a need to go and do it again.
Rather than run this treadmill, Epictetus advises we lean into self-restraint aka moderation as a way to avoid the pitfalls of first impressions.
Moderation (or Temperance), after all, is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism.
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