Stoic Quotes on Control (Within or Without?)

One of the biggest concepts of Stoic philosophy is being able to understand what is in your control and what is not. The following stoic quotes on control help to highlight this philosophy and illustrate why it it’s important to a happy life.

What Do Stoics Say About Control?

Stoics believe that much of what happens in life is out of our control, and that we should instead focus our energy and attention on what we can control.


What Is Under Our Control According To The Stoics?

Stoics believe that your thoughts, words, actions, and emotions are within your sphere of influence.

Your thoughts are the only place in which you can exercise complete control.

If you hold strong beliefs, then your emotions will follow suit. Hence, it is important to think positively during all circumstances.


What Is Not Under Our Control According To The Stoics?

Stoic philosophy teaches us that things beyond our control include:

– The actions of other people,

– Circumstances beyond our control,

– Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes,


Why Is This Important?

Far too often individuals become unhappy and indignant because something has happened that they do not like or was not expected. Without understanding the concept of control, we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy dwelling on these negative emotions and feeling victimized by external events.

When we inevitably fail to change the outcome, we begin a cycle of negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety and stress.

Understanding the Stoic concept of external events beyond our control helps to live a serene, proactive life. 

Try it yourself :

  • Take a deep breath and ask yourself, is this within my control or not?
  • If it isn’t, accept that you can’t change it and let go of the outcome. Ask yourself, what can I do about how I’m thinking and feeling instead?
  • If it is within your sphere of influence, think about what you can do to have a positive impact on the situation. This will help you collect your thoughts, soothe negative emotions and encourage action if required.



Stoic Quotes About Control


“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.” Epictetus


“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus


“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” Seneca


“It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.” Epictetus


“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius


“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” Epictetus


“Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.” Seneca


“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” Marcus Aurelius


“How does it help…to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?” Seneca


“We should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?” Epictetus


“If a person gave away your body to some passer-by, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled — have you no shame in that?” Epictetus


“It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it.” Seneca


“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.” Epictetus


““The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” Marcus Aurelius


“The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” Epictetus


“The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable.” Seneca


“No man is free who is not master of himself.” Epictetus


“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.” Seneca


“If you wish to be a writer, write.” Epictetus


“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” Seneca


“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.” Epictetus


“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus


“He who indulges in empty fears earns himself real fears.” Seneca


“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Epictetus


“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Marcus Aurelius



The ability to control the reactions to external events that are outside your influence is key to maintaining happiness. Use this concept as an exercise in mental strength and discipline. If you do not like what happens around you, change your thoughts and reactions to it.

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