“This is the true athlete — the person in rigorous training against false impressions. Remain firm, you who suffer, don’t be kidnapped by your impressions! The struggle is great, the task divine — to gain mastery, freedom, happiness, and tranquility.EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.18.27-28
Today’s quote is about false impressions, and how we have to guard against them, constantly. We have to keep training, to teach our mind to recognize these false impressions and remove them from our mind. The struggle is great, indeed, but it’s the foundation for the life we’re trying to build for ourselves. And the payoff is sublime!
How often do we have to train against these falsehoods? The truth is that the struggle never ends. We have to keep training, all day every day. It’s a commitment to self-improvement, and the payoff is felt every day as well, as you continue in your quest.
What exactly is the payoff? Well, it’s the best reward of all — peace of mind, and the freedom that comes along with that. This is the whole reason we struggle at all, why we even get out of bed in the morning. We are trying to make a better life for ourselves, and to be calm and happy with what we already have.
And what is the penalty? Failing to guard against false impressions means that you will fall for them. You’ll believe things that aren’t true, you’ll go down rabbit holes of worry and self-doubt, and you’ll lose track of what’s really important. It’s the opposite of peace of mind, and it can feel like the opposite of freedom — like you’re locked up in a cage with no way out.
Instead, commit to that training — dedicate yourself to self-improvement and the pursuit of honest truth and swiping away of deception and false impressions. The struggle is great, but the task is divine!
(Note: today’s accompanying chapter in The Daily Stoic was built almost entirely around another quote by Epictetus about a storm, but I didn’t see the parallel with the main quote for the day above, so I chose not to reference that. You’re welcome to buy the book and read what Holiday had to say on today’s page.)