Enchiridion / The Art Of Living
by Epictetus

  • Philosophy
  • Ashto = 9/10
  • Jonesy = 4/10
Enchiridion / The Art Of Living

The original text is known as Enchiridion by Epictetus, plus we also read Sharon Labelle’s translation ‘The Art of Living’.


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 control and what you can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

WITHIN our control: our own opinion, aspirations, desires. These areas are quite rightly our concern, because they are directly subject to our influence. In a word – whatever are our own acts. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.

OUTSIDE our control: whether we’re born into wealth, how we are regarded by others, our status in society. In a word – whatever are NOT in our acts. We must remember that those things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can’t only results in torment.

Happiness Can Only Be Found Within

Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. We cannot have a light heat if our minds are a woeful cauldron of fear and ambition.

Your happiness depends on three things, all which are within your power:

  • your WILL
  • your IDEAS concerning the events in which you are involved
  • and the USE you make of your idea

Authentic happiness is always independent of extenral conditions. Vigilantly practice indifference to external conditions. Your happiness can only be found within.

How easily dazzled and deceived we are by eloquence, job title, degrees, high honors, fancy possessions, expensive clothing, or a suave demeanour. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that celebrities, public figures, political leaders, the wealthy, or people with great intellectual or artistic gifts are necessarily happy. To do so is to be bewlidered by appearances and will only make you doubt yourself.

Remember: the real essence is found only within things under your own control. If you keep this in mind, you won’t find yourself feeling falsely envious or forlorn, pitifully comparing yourself and your accomplishments to others. Stop aspiring to be anyone other than your own best self: for that does fall within your control.

Other People’s Opinions

Spiritual progress requires us to highlight what is essential and to disregard everything else as trivial pursuits unworthy of our attention. Moreover, it is actually a good thing t be thought foolish and simple with regard to matters that don’t concern us. Don’t be concerned with other people’s impression of you. They are dazzled and deluded by appearances. Stick with your purpose. This alone will strengthen your will and give your life coherence.

Refrain from trying to win other people’s approval and admiration. Don’t long for others to see you as sophisticated, unique or wise. In fact – be suspicious if you appear to others as someone special – be on your guard against a false sense of self-importance. Keeping your will in harmony with truth and concerning yourself with what is beyond your control are mutually exclusive. While you are absorbed by one, you will neglect the other.

In trying to please other people, we find ourselves misdirected toward what lies outside our sphere of influence. In doing so we lose our hold on our life’s purpose. Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of truth. Return and return again to what is essential and worthy. Do not try to seem wise to others. If you want to live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes.

Never depend on the admiration of others. there is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. It is not to be found in your personal associations, nor can it be found in the regard of other people. It is a fact of life that other people, even the people you love, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasm. Who cares what other people think about you?! Create your OWN merit.

Personal merit cannot be achieved through our associations – you have been given your own work to do. Get to it right now, do your best at it, and don’t be concerned with who is watching you. Do your own useful work without regard to the honor or admiration your efforts might win from others. Other people’s triumphs and excellences belong to them. Likewise, your possessions may hold excellence, but YOU cannot derive excellence from them.

Objectivity and Perception

Circumstances do not rise to meet our expectations. Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get, not what you wanted/hoped to get.

Open your eyes. See things as they really are, thereby sparing yourself of the pain of false attachments and avoidable devastation.

When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it. You can either accept it or resent it. What really frightens us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. Stop scaring yourself with impetuous notions, with your reactive impressions of the way things are! Things and people are not what we wish them to be, nor what they seem to be… they are what they are.

Events Don’t Hurt Us, But Our Views Of Them Can. Things themselves don’t hinder us. Nor do other people. How we view these things is another matter. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances. But we can always choose how we respond to them.

Events Are Impersonal And Indifferent. When considering the future, remember that all situations unfold as they do regardless of how we feel about them. Our hopes and fears sway US, not the EVENTS themselves. Undisciplined people, driven by their personal antipathies and sympathies, are forever on the lookout for signs that build up or reinforce their unexamined views and opinions. Events themselves are impersonal, though judicious people certainly can and should respond to them in beneficial ways. Instead of personalising an event (“this is my triumph” or “this was his blunder” or “this is my bitter misfortune”) and drawing withering conclusions about yourself or human nature, watch for how you can put certain aspects of the event to good use. Is there some less-than-obvious benefit embedded in the event that a trained eye might discern? Pay attention; be a sleuth. Perhaps there is a lesson you can extract and apply to similar events in the future. In any event, no matter how seemingly dire, there is nothing to prevent us from searching for its hidden opportunity. It is a failure of imagination not to do so.

Get Your Copy of Enchiridion / The Art Of Living by Epictetus