Skip to content

When will ‘now’ be a good time for you?

  • by

Following along from yesterday’s post about not waiting any longer to start doing the things I wanted to do all my life but put off, we now turn to another Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?

Epictetus was a slave, who endured hardship after hardship, and still managed to live a pretty decent life. He fully embraced Stoicism, a philosophy that says all external events are beyond our control and should be accepted in a calm and detached manner. The only thing we can control is our response to things, and we do that through self-discipline.

In The Encheiridion (The Handbook) a collection of teachings put together by Epictetus’s student Arrian, he has a quote that follows up on what I said yesterday:

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.”
“From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.”

I have lots of things I want to do. Too many to be done in one lifetime. I am also a master of procrastination. I don’t do any of the things I want to do. I keep putting them off. I’m definitely on track to die as someone quite ordinary.

Why do I do that? As Epictetus says, I’ve got everything I need, I don’t need to wait for some teacher to tell me what to do. Heck, I’m certainly old enough to know better by now.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. Life is. Either get what you want, or don’t. But if you put off doing the things that will get you what you want, you will most assuredly NOT get them.

I suppose the Stoics would also say that if you don’t get them, you need to accept that and keep moving on. You can’t control things outside you. You can only choose what you do, and try to live virtuously. Maybe throw in a little Ghandi – ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’?

I really need to stop procrastinating, get off my ass, and write more. I’ve got stories to tell. And the stories want out of my head and to be told. Somehow, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, I need to demand the best for myself and put the time in on the things I want.

Note: The Amazon link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase from clicking that link, you don’t get charged anything extra, and I make a small commission from the sale.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *