The Stoics were an ancient school of philosophy that prized self-control, inner peace, and living in harmony with others. These teachings have inspired generations of thinkers and writers, from Marcus Aurelius to Steve Jobs. While their teachings spanned a variety of subjects, there are some powerful quotes from the Stoics that still resonate with people today. This article will explore 17 of the most powerful Stoic quotes. These quotes offer wisdom and guidance on how to live a happy and productive life.
Stoic Quotes of Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and philosopher who is known for his philosophical writings, including his famous Meditations. In his writings, Aurelius often emphasized the importance of living a virtuous life, being true to oneself, and staying focused on the present moment. The following quotes are some of his most famous and inspiring ideas.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
This quote is about the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of living in the present moment. Aurelius reminds us that we could leave this world at any moment and that we should let this realization determine how we act, say, and think. The stoics call this “Memento Mori” or remember death. This is a powerful reminder to stay focused on the present moment and make the most of our time.
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
Here, Marcus Aurelius speaks to our tendency to value other people’s opinions more than our own. Aurelius observes that, despite the fact that we all love ourselves more than anyone else, we often care more about what other people think of us than our own opinions. This is a common human tendency, and it can be harmful if we allow it to dictate our actions and decisions. Aurelius suggests that we should focus on our own opinions and choices, rather than being overly influenced by other people’s thoughts and opinions.
“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.”
In this quote, Aurelius emphasizes the importance of living a moral and truthful life. He advises us only to do things that are right and only to say things that are true. This is another core principle of Stoicism, which teaches that we should strive to live in accordance with moral principles and truth. By following this advice, we can avoid causing harm to others and to ourselves, and we can live a more authentic and fulfilling life.
“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.”
This stoic quote is about the nature of revenge. Aurelius suggests that the best way to get revenge on someone is not to act like them but to be the opposite of them. This powerful idea challenges the notion that we should seek to harm or punish those who have wronged us. Instead, Aurelius suggests that we should rise above negativity and act with kindness and compassion, even towards those who have hurt us.
“External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
Here, Aurelius addresses the idea that external events or circumstances are the sources of our problems. He suggests that it’s not the events themselves, but rather our interpretation or assessment of them that causes us difficulties. This idea is consistent with the Stoic belief (known as “Amor Fati“) that our own thoughts and attitudes are the key to our happiness and well-being. By changing our perspective, we can erase the negative effects of external events and live happier and more fulfilling life. Accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
“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.”
This stoic quote is about the importance of being open-minded and willing to change. Aurelius suggests that he is always seeking the truth and that he is willing to change his beliefs or perspectives if someone can show him that he is mistaken. This is a valuable attitude, as it allows us to learn and grow, and avoid being stuck in our beliefs and perspectives. In modern times, this is known as having a growth mindset.
“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”
The final quote is about the importance of being both tolerant and strict. Aurelius advises us to be tolerant of others, and to accept that they have their own beliefs and perspectives. At the same time, he suggests that we should be strict with ourselves, and hold ourselves to high standards and expectations. This is a valuable balance to strike, as it allows us to be open-minded and accepting of other opinions, while also being disciplined and focused on our own goals and aspirations.
Stoicism Through the Eyes of Seneca
Seneca was a Roman philosopher, statesman, and playwright who was a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius. Like Aurelius, Seneca was a Stoic philosopher, and his writings often focused on the importance of living a virtuous and meaningful life. The following quotes are his most inspiring ideas.
“If a man knows not which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”
The first quote is about the importance of having a clear direction and purpose in life. Seneca suggests that, without a clear destination in mind, no wind will be favourable to us. In other words, if we don’t know where we’re going, we can’t expect to make any progress. This is a powerful reminder to think carefully about our goals and aspirations, and to make sure that we have a clear plan for achieving them.
“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.”
The second quote is about the importance of being content with what we have, rather than constantly striving for more. Seneca points out that no person has the power to have everything they want but that it is within our power to be satisfied with what we have. In other words, human want is limitless. He suggests that we should cheerfully use what we have, rather than constantly craving more. This is a valuable perspective to adopt, as it can help us avoid the frustration and dissatisfaction that come from constantly wanting what we don’t have.
“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.”
The third quote concerns the value of time alone and reflecting. Seneca suggests that being able to enjoy our own company is a sign of a well-ordered mind. He encourages us to take some time to be alone and to think about our lives and our choices. This is a valuable practice, as it can help us gain clarity and perspective and improve our mental and emotional well-being.
“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a man who is alive.”
In this stoic quote, Seneca talks about the fear of death, and how it can limit our ability to live a full and meaningful life. Seneca suggests that those who are afraid of death will never do anything truly worthy of a person who is alive. This is because fear can hold us back and prevent us from taking risks and trying new things. By overcoming our fear of death, we can live more fully and make the most of our time.
“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.”
The quote discusses the value of adversity and challenges. Seneca suggests that those who have never experienced misfortune are unfortunate because they have never had the opportunity to test their own strength and resilience. He suggests that it is only through facing challenges that we can discover our true potential and capabilities. This is a valuable perspective, as it encourages us to embrace adversity and use it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Step outside your comfort zone and see what you are capable of.
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering tim ethey are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
This final quote is about the importance of mindful use of our time. Seneca points out that we are often careful with our material possessions, but we are wasteful when it comes to our time. Time is our most valuable possession. He suggests that it is right to be stingy with our time and to use it wisely and intentionally. This is a valuable reminder to be mindful of how we spend our time and to prioritize the things that are truly important to us.
Stoic Quotes of Cato
Cato was a Roman senator and statesman who was known for his steadfast adherence to traditional Roman values and his opposition to the rise of Julius Caesar.
“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.”
In this quote, Cato emphasizes the importance of being thoughtful and deliberate in our words and actions. He suggests that we should only speak when we are certain that what we have to say is worth saying. This is a valuable principle to follow, as it can help us avoid saying things that we might regret, and can help us communicate more effectively and respectfully. Additionally, it allows us to be open to receiving feedback and hearing the perspectives of others.
Stoic Quotes of Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who is best known for his work on the psychological effects of the Holocaust.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”
Frankl emphasizes the importance of having a goal or purpose in life in this first quote. He suggests that we must strive and struggle for something worthy of us, to feel fulfilled and satisfied. This is a powerful idea, as it suggests that our happiness and well-being depend on having something to work towards and strive for.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
The second stoic quote is about the need to adapt and change in the face of difficult circumstances. Frankl suggests that when we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. This is a powerful idea, as it suggests that we have the ability to adapt and grow even in the face of adversity. By accepting the things we cannot change and working on ourselves, we can overcome difficult situations and live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
The stoic quotes discussed in this article show the wisdom and insight of some of the greatest minds in ancient history. They emphasize themes such as resilience, adaptability, mindfulness and striving for a meaningful purpose in life. These ideas are still highly relevant today and serve as an essential reminder to take control of our lives and to make the most out of every moment. By applying the lessons of stoicism to our lives, we can live with greater purpose and intentionality.
For further exploration, numerous books and resources on stoic philosophy can help us gain a deeper understanding of these ideas and how to apply them to our lives. Ultimately, by reflecting on these powerful words, we can gain greater insight into ourselves and the world around us.