Monday, July 1, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 3.25 - To those who fail to achieve what they have proposed for themselves

Epictetus reminds us that we will fail in our quest for living a virtuous life and that we can use those failures to our benefit.  Indeed, for "those who are engaged in the greatest of contests shouldn't flinch, but must be prepared also to take blows" (v. 2, p. 211).  What is this contest?  It is a contest "for good fortune and happiness itself" (v. 3, p. 211).

As Bruce Wayne's dad tells Bruce when he fall, "why do we fall Bruce?  So we can learn to pick ourselves up!"  Epictetus similarly teaches, "even if we should falter for a while, no one can prevent us from resuming the fight ... as soon as one has recovered and regained one's strength, and can muster the same zeal as before, one can enter the fight; and if one should fail again, one can enter one again, and if one should carry off the victory one fine day, it will be as if one had never given in" (v. 4, p. 211).

Then he gives a warning.  We must be wary of falling into the bad habit of being content to repeat the same mistakes.  "Don't begin, through force of habit, to be glad to repeat the process all over again, so that you end up like a bad athlete" (v. 5, p. 211).

Rather to repeating mistakes, "you ought to have remembered them ... in the same way as slaves remember the blows that they've received, to avoid repeating the same mistakes" (v. 9, p. 212).

Become the victor - the conqueror.  If you make a mistake, review them at the end of each day and think, if you were given the opportunity to live the moment again, what you would do differently.  Commit to change your thinking and attitude and when presented with the same test again, grasp the victory firmly in your hand!

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