Epictetus was a Greek-speaking Stoic philosopher from the first century AD. His teachings have influenced a wide range of people including the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the military commander James Stockdale, and the modern spiritual guru Eckart Tolle.
Epictetus was born almost 2,000 years ago in Hierapolis (in present-day Turkey) the slave to a wealthy Roman. His master allowed him to study Stoic philosophy, which emphasizes the development of self-control and fortitude as a means to overcome destructive emotions. Eventually, Epictetus gained his freedom and moved to Rome to teach philosophy.
This week’s travel quote—“On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use”—comes from Epictetus’ most famous work, The Discourses. It speaks to the internal strength that he used to overcome circumstantial obstacles and achieve personal success.
Whether at home or on the road, bad things will happen in life. Injuries, financial losses, terrorism, death—they are all a normal part of existence. But Epictetus tells us is that our lives don’t have to be defined by negative events outside our control. Instead, we should focus on our ability to adapt to misfortune, perhaps using it to our advantage.
I’m reminded of the time in central Italy when I missed the last train out of a small village. At first I was quite upset—both at myself for being careless, and at my circumstances as I didn’t have anywhere to stay that night. But then I stepped back and looked at the whole picture. I was in a beautiful location, I spoke the local language, and it wasn’t cold outside. At the very worst, I could have a good dinner, explore the town, and wait at the train station for the first train in the morning.
My positivity proved to be justified. I met a couple of locals over dinner, which led to me heading to their rooftop for drinks and, ultimately, sleeping on their coach. Not only had my initial problem been solved, but I had gained an experience I’ll never forget.
Obviously not every misstep can turn out to be a blessing. But no matter what happens in the outside world, you always have the power to dictate your emotions. Your reality is nothing more than what you say it is. You have the power to create your future; how will you use it?
I publish a new travel quote ever week, right here. Do you have a particular one you'd like us to feature in the future? What do you think about this quotation? Let us know in the comments below!