July 7, 2021 - The Stoic Gym Blog
12 Training Methods of Epictetus
[An outline of Discourses, Book 3]
How does one train to be Stoic? What are the most critical areas we should focus on? In his third book of Discourses, Epictetus discusses about a dozen things we should be concerned about when we train ourselves to be Stoics. (The following is from my plain English version of the second book of Discourses, Stoic Training. https://amzn.to/2tqcc5J )
1. Train to become excellent as a human being
What makes a horse or a lion excellent does not make a human being excellent. The excellence of a horse or a lion is not the excellence of a human being. For human beings to be excellent, they should excel in their choices. When you start training, keep away from temptations, and keep the right company until your mind gets strong.
2. Train on these three disciplines: desire, action, and assent
i. The Discipline of Desire
Train yourself to desire or avoid only things under your control. This way you will always get what you want and never what you don’t want.
ii. The discipline of action
Always act appropriately. Don’t act carelessly but in an orderly fashion after due consideration.
iii. The discipline of assent
Avoid error and hasty judgment.
3. Deal only with the choices that YOU make
Train yourself to ignore and not judge whatever is not your choice. The final aim is to assent to what is true, dissent from what is false, and suspend judgment when uncertain; similarly, to desire what is good, to reject what is bad, and be indifferent to what is neither.
4. Train your mind to want whatever actually happens
This way you’ll never be disappointed no matter what happens. Keep your goals always in mind. Train yourself daily to deal with impressions. It is our judgment that decides whether what happens to us is good or bad. Make sure that your judgments are sound.
5. Use Stoic training to prepare you for the challenges to come
Illness and death are part of reality. There is no occasion for anger or fear. You are not desolate merely because you are alone, any more than you are secure from desolation because you are in a crowd. Train to be self-sufficient and be comfortable with yourself as well as with others.
6. Ascetic training is unnecessary unless it serves some purpose
Avoid unnecessarily harsh training. Practice getting rid of diffidence and conceit. If you decide to pursue anything, make sure you are prepared to do what it takes. Not everyone is cut out to do everything.
7. Train to see things as they are without adding your judgments to them
When you see things like poverty, don’t add your judgment to it that it is bad. If you see people who have what you don’t have, don’t envy them. They paid a price for what they have.
8. Your judgments are the sole cause of your distress because nothing outside of you can harm you.
Don’t judge external things as ‘bad’. Such judgments cause you distress. You can spot an advantage even in things others consider ‘bad’, such as illness and death.
9. Don’t imitate others without understanding the basis of their actions
You should first master the principles. Approach things with caution and respect. Be aware of your limitations. Show your mastery by the way you act and not by blindly imitating others.
10. Train to be at home wherever you are
Things are impermanent. Don’t long for the past. Train yourself to be at home wherever you are and whoever you are with. Do what needs doing and don’t complain. This is where happiness is. It is impossible to be happy and yet crave what one doesn’t have. Happiness must already have all it wants. It must resemble a person who has achieved their fill, feeling neither hungry nor thirsty.
11. Your goal is happiness and good fortune
Never be beaten. If you don’t achieve it at one attempt, try again and again. But don’t make failure a habit.
12. Train to confront your fear of death
You will see it is the fear of death rather than death that is the cause of your problem.
This summary is based on
Stoic Training (Epictetus Discourses, Book 3)
by Chuck Chakrapani