Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress

How do you know if you have made progress?

Epictetus viewed progress by what you have put into practice. Someone who is able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. It doesn’t matter if you have read books on impulse control or on avoiding desires. Rather, are you less impulsive than before? What desires have you successfully avoided? This is where the measurement of progress can be seen.

While books can show you the way, one has to put into practice what that way is and not simply stare at it, being content at having learned about something which will soon leave them. As all things do when not consistently practiced. But once that learning is put into practice, through repetition those lessons learned become engrained into your movements, into your habits and one gets a deeper, a more innate understanding of those lessons. Thus, progress is made.

Progress is seen in someone who attends to their character, cultivating it and improving their character. Someone who understands the limitations of their control and what is under their influence. Someone who lives with their ideas from the moment they wake up to when they go to sleep.

Or, one can think of it this way, what would be considered a lack of progress?

For Epictetus, the attitude like “poor me” where one pities themselves and blames external circumstances for their position in life is one clear sign of a lack of progress. If nothing else, avoidance of such attitude is progress.

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