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The Top 3 Stoic Quotes That Have Made the Biggest Impact on My Life

{This post was inspired by Tim Denning’s article.}

I stumbled upon Stoicism in 2017.

At the time, I was:

  • Struggling in my final year of University

  • Seeing the school counsellor twice a week

  • Working 20-25 hours a week in a Pakistani restaurant

  • Single after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend

  • Living alone after my parents moved to another country

  • Lived each day without routine, intention, or purpose

  • And my favourite past-time was drinking and clubbing

I was at rock bottom, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

It was also during this time that I started to listen to motivational speeches, and it’s how I came across the author, Ryan Holiday, and found out about The Daily Stoic.

This book became my lighthouse. My guiding light. My Northern Star. Even now, I often re-read it, refer to it, and call upon its wisdom to give me the strength to endure difficult moments in my life. And it’s helped me become more reflective and gain self-awareness.

Though the entire book is filled with nuggets of wisdom, here are the top 3 Stoic quotes that have made the biggest impact on my life and that I’ve resonated with most.

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. - Marcus Aurelius

Only now, after 6 years from the moment I first read it, do I have a better understanding of what Marcus Aurelius meant.

You see, I used to only focus on the second part of this quote, Be strict with yourself. I’d (try) to hold myself to the highest standard. This meant, waking up early, exercising, drinking water, spending time productively… etc. etc. etc.

But because of this, I’d judge others. I’d feel superior to them, for not having the (supposed) self-discipline that I had and for not living the way that I did.

But lately, I realized, I completely neglected the first part, Be tolerant with others. It was only after reading Discipline Is Destiny that I learned that…

First, nobody has the time to be nitpicking everyone’s fault. That just means you’re wasting your time, thinking about everyone else.

Second, you’re not perfect (I’m definitely not). No one is. So, why would you judge other people during (perhaps) their lowest moments in life? I certainly wouldn’t want that to happen to me.

Third, everyone is on their own journey. What they do with their life has nothing to do with you, and isn’t your responsibility. It’s called personal development for a reason.

Fourth, (and I think this is what we should all strive for), instead of nitpicking and judging others on how they're living their lives, we should try to look for the good in them.

And last, what I learned from Jay Shetty is that, as a friend, daughter, romantic partner, whatever role you play, truly helping someone isn’t about giving them the answer to their problems. It’s not about giving them the roadmap to success.

Instead, it’s about meeting them where they are and encouraging them on their own journey to become the best version of themselves.

This is the harder path. But, it’s also the path that helps us build more tolerance. More acceptance. And less judgment.

In this way, you’ll become kinder and more compassionate while on your own path to self-actualization.

We suffer more in imagination than reality. - Seneca

I’ve been an overthinker my entire life (Unfortunately, that’s part of the INFJ personality type.)

I’d constantly dwell on the past or worry about the future.

For example, a few years ago, I had my first Open House at the kindergarten. This is when parents stay at school for the entire day to observe how you teach and interact with the kids.

For weeks leading up to the Open House, I’d ruminate over every worst-case scenario imaginable.

I’d worry that the kids wouldn’t sit still. That they’d refuse to listen to me in front of their parents. That they’d cry. That the parents would think I’m too young and unqualified to teach. That they would think I’m not a good teacher.

These thoughts and worries overwhelmed me for a whole month, up to the very morning of that day.

But guess what? The Open House went fantastically went. Better than I ever expected. Better than my wildest dreams.

So, here’s what I learned about overthinking.

One, I think, yes, we should anticipate problems and prepare solutions beforehand. But, don’t get trapped in trying to anticipate everything because frankly, that’s not possible and it’ll drive you crazy trying to do so.

Two, often what we imagine is worse than what could ever happen. And on the chance it does happen, then, you’ve just lived through it twice. Once in your mind, the second in real life.

Three, if you continually focus on the outcomes you don’t want, you’re still directing energy into it so the chances of it happening increase.

So rather than putting all your energy into thinking about the “what-ifs”, focus on what is in your control and do your best to do what you can do now at this moment. Then, let go and leave the rest up to the Universe and trust that you can handle whatever happens.

Hold every hour in your grasp. - Seneca

Most of us live tacitly presuming we’ll live forever. We forget our time here is limited. And so, we often spend too much time focusing on the wrong things.

Now, I can’t tell you what’s important because everyone’s values and priorities are different. But I can tell you what isn’t important.

Things like:

  • Being too lazy, distracted, and entertained

  • Fearing failure, rejection, and not taking risks

  • Complaining, criticizing, and comparing

  • Caring about the opinions of others

  • Doing things you don’t want to do

  • Only chasing after vain pursuits

  • Investing too much time on social media (without a clear purpose)

Truthfully, none of these things make sense in light of the fragility of life.

So, start to be more mindful of how you spend your time. Ask yourself, Is what I’m doing something that….

I enjoy and is meaningful?

Will benefit myself and others?

Is worthy of making up my one and only life?

Remember, you’re going to die one day. Think about this every day and let it guide you in your actions so that on your deathbed, you can die without regrets (or, with as few as possible).


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Photo by Jodie Cook on Unsplash

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