The 44 Best & Most Important Stoic Quotes From Seneca, Marcus Aurelius & Co.

The 44 Best Stoic Quotes Cover

The first time I ever heard about Stoicism was when my parents used a German expression called “stoische Ruhe” — Stoic calm. The phrase usually describes someone who seems to be unfazed in the face of adversity. “With Stoic calm, he accepted his plight,” we might say. Someone who has Stoic calm is not invincible but unshakeable, and if you’re looking to develop this and other Stoic qualities, what better place to start than a selection of the best Stoic quotes? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this organized list, you’ll discover the best ideas from 10 early Stoic philosophers. You’ll also learn which 10 Stoic quotes are the most popular, based on reader votes. Furthermore, we’ll look at 10 popular quotes from modern-day Stoics, and I’ll share my 14 personal favorites as well, for a total of 44 quotes about Stoicism! Finally, I’ll list the exact sources for all quotes, show you where you can find more Stoic quotes, and share some cool, custom images for posting your favorites to social media. I’ll even provide a little background on what Stoicism is and why this 2,300-year-old philosophy is still worth studying today.

Want a list of the 7 best philosophy books of all time to learn more about Stoicism straight from the horse’s mouth? Download our free PDF, print it, and learn more about this timeless philosophy that can help us live and think better. Or save it for later and read it whenever you want!

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The easiest way to navigate this list is to use the table of contents below. You can jump to whichever section seems most interesting with a single tap! If you want to share any quote on this list, simply highlight it and several sharing options will appear. Alternatively, you can skip to the section with premade images towards the end.

As four-time weightlifting world champion and Tim Ferriss’s personal trainer Jerzy Gregorek once said: “I can’t imagine any life more beautiful than that of a Stoic.” Let’s discover why in some of the best quotes from the greatest Stoic philosophers!

Top 10 Stoic Quotes From the Most Famous Stoic Philosophers

If you want to grasp the most important Stoic ideas — self-reflection, restraint, taking action, and acceptance — in a nutshell, you could do worse than start with these lines from 10 quintessential Stoics. We’ve sorted them chronologically based on when their originators lived.

Technically, Heraclitus, who lived around 500 BC, wasn’t a Stoic, but his ideas greatly influenced all subsequent philosophers. Zeno, born 334 BC, is considered the founder of Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius can be deemed the last great Stoic before the decline of the Roman Empire. Here are some of their and other famous Stoics’ best thoughts:

1. “You could not step twice into the same river.” — Heraclitus

2. “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we speak.” — Zeno of Citium

3. “Fate guides the willing, but drags the unwilling.” — Cleanthes

4. “There could be no justice, unless there were also injustice; no courage, unless there were cowardice; no truth, unless there were falsehood.” — Chrysippus

5. “Let your desires be ruled by reason.” — Cicero

6. “I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.” — Cato the Younger

7. “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca

8. “If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.” — Musonius Rufus

9. “Men are disturbed not by things but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.” — Epictetus

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

The 10 Most Popular Stoic Quotes

Okay, so much for the most important quotes from Stoics, but what about the most popular ones? Which ones resonate the most with people? On Goodreads, over 125 million members can vote on their favorite lines from books and authors. Below, we’ve compiled the ten most-voted lines from three of the most well-known Stoics, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus (mainly because their writings have partially survived to this day) and one other philosopher, Epicurus.

A few caveats: Epicurus founded his own school of thought, Epicureanism, and though it is often depicted as a philosophy contrary to Stoicism, the two approaches actually have a lot in common. Hence, some of his Stoic-leaning ideas are worth including. Each quote has received over 1,000 likes on Goodreads, some up to 5,000. Any line that would be a double mention from above was excluded, and so was any quote we couldn’t at least somewhat verify as correctly attributed. 

That said, here we go. These are the 10 most popular Stoic quotes, according to readers on Goodreads:

11. “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ― Marcus Aurelius

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

13. “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ― Epicurus

14. “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” — Seneca

15. “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” ― Marcus Aurelius

16. “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius

17. “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” — Seneca

18. “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.” ― Marcus Aurelius

19. “The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” ― Marcus Aurelius

20. “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.’” ― Epictetus

10 Inspiring Quotes From Modern-Day Stoics

Around 600 years after its inception, Stoicism got lost in the sands of time. For nearly 2,000 years, the philosophy and its scarce literary remnants were condemned to obscurity. Sitting in church archives and private collections, Stoic ideas were shunned in public by Christians and other religions alike, perhaps practiced in private by few.

It is only in the second half of the 20th century that Stoicism found renewed interest, thanks in part to a book by an academic, Problems in Stoicism. The second party to be credited is Albert Ellis, a psychologist who partially relied on Stoic ideas to develop the foundations of cognitive behavioral theory, a now popular approach to treating various cognitive disorders, including anxiety and depression.

As of the 21st century, other prominent figures have taken over the reins, most notably Ryan Holiday, who has been shepherding and popularizing Stoicism through a series of over ten books which have sold over five million copies to date.

Here are 10 inspiring lines from modern-day Stoics to show you how this philosophy can be interpreted and of help to us today:

21. “Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” ― Ryan Holiday

22. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr

23. “People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.” ― Timothy Ferriss

24. “As a Stoic, I must despise injury, or, rather, I must not feel it, must not be affected by it so that it cannot violate the freedom of my soul…” ― Alexandra David-Néel

25. “Our happiness is not to be found in the judgments of others or in things outside of our control.” — Arianna Huffington

26. “Having to fight for the thing you want doesn’t mean you deserve it any less.” ― Anna Kendrick

27. “Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” ― Randy Pausch

28. “We love being mentally strong, but we hate situations that allow us to put our mental strength to good use.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

29. “A Stoic is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.” — Nassim Taleb

30. “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek

My 14 Favorite Stoic Quotes From Seneca, Marcus Aurelius & Co.

I’m not an expert in Stoic philosophy, but I’ve been studying and enjoying Stoic wisdom for almost a decade. I read The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday several years in a row. Other books I’ve read, at least in parts, include Meditations, Letters from a Stoic, and On the Shortness of Life. I most enjoy the themes of using our time well, remembering our mortality, and focusing on what we can control. My perspective on Stoicism isn’t perfect, but here are 14 of my favorite quotes that I’ve curated over the years:

31. “We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Life is long if you know how to use it.” — Seneca

32. “Let the mind be disciplined to understand and to endure its own lot; let it have the knowledge that there is nothing which fortune does not dare — that she has the same jurisdiction over empires as over emperors, the same power over cities as over the citizens who dwell therein. We must not cry out at any of these calamities. Into such a world have we entered, and under such laws do we live.” — Seneca

33. “Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” — Marcus Aurelius

34. “Make peace again with destiny, the destiny that unravels all ties: We are unequal at birth, but are equal in death.” — Seneca

35. “Given that all must die, it is better to die with distinction than to live long.” — Musonius Rufus

36. “Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.” — Marcus Aurelius

37. “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.” — Seneca

38. “Nothing ought to be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent forward in advance to meet all problems, and we should consider not what is wont to happen, but what can happen.” — Seneca

39. “Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.” — Epictetus

40. “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” — Seneca

41. “Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well.” — Marcus Aurelius

42. “So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.” — Seneca

43. “You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” — Marcus Aurelius

44. “It would be tedious to recount all the ways by which fate may come; but this one thing I know: all the works of mortal man have been doomed to mortality, and in the midst of things which have been destined to die, we live!” — Seneca


  1. As quoted by Plato.
  2. As quoted by Diogenes Laërtius.
  3. From the same book by Diogenes Laërtius as #2.
  4. Via Daily Stoic.
  5. From his book De Officiis (On Duties).
  6. As described by Plutarch.
  7. From his Moral Letters to Lucilius (#13).
  8. Via Daily Stoic.
  9. As found in his Enchiridion.
  10. From Meditations, supposedly book VIII, but it might be from an older translation or an amalgamation of lines from previous, other versions of the book.
  11. From Meditations.
  12. From Meditations.
  13. Via the Vatican Sayings, a collection preserved by the church from a 14th-century manuscript.
  14. From Moral Letters (#78).
  15. From Meditations.
  16. From Meditations.
  17. From De Vita Beata (On the Happy Life).
  18. From Meditations.
  19. From Meditations.
  20. From the Enchiridion.
  21. From Ego Is the Enemy.
  22. The serenity prayer is a widely known and cited affirmation.
  23. From The 4-Hour Workweek.
  24. Unverified. Since Néel was French, I tried finding a French translation but couldn’t.
  25. From an interview on Daily Stoic.
  26. From her biography, Scrappy Little Nobody. She also told The New York Times that she read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
  27. From The Last Lecture.
  28. From F for Philosopher.
  29. From Antifragile.
  30. As cited by Tim Ferriss in his TED talk.
  31. From De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life).
  32. From Moral Letters (#91).
  33. From Meditations.
  34. From Moral Letters (#91)/Letters from a Stoic. I combined two different translations of the same section for pithiness.
  35. From Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings.
  36. From Meditations.
  37. From De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life).
  38. From Moral Letters (#91).
  39. From Discourses.
  40. From De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life).
  41. From Meditations.
  42. From De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life).
  43. From Meditations.
  44. From Moral Letters (#91).

More Stoic Quotes

Want more quotes about Stoicism? Besides our list of the best Marcus Aurelius quotes, at this point, you’re probably best off by picking up a book about the topic — and I have just the perfect one in mind: The Daily Stoic* by Ryan Holiday. Here’s a quick overview, along with some links to our summary of the book and an affiliate button to buy yourself a copy on Amazon.

Stoic Quotes Book Cover

Favorite Quote

“Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.” — Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

The Daily Stoic* is a year-long compilation of short, daily meditations from ancient Stoic philosophers like Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and others, teaching you equanimity, resilience, and perseverance via the three Stoic disciplines of perception, action, and will.

Why should you read it?

I have read this book every year for five years in a row. It’s that good and, more importantly, that easy. A page a day. That’s all it takes. You have time to read a page a day. I know you do. Everyone does. This is also the best intro to Stoicism, I think. Mostly because it makes the topic so approachable. Plus, if you enjoy this one, it’s easy to pick up another Ryan Holiday book on the topic and continue exploring. I would recommend this book to anyone. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Key Takeaways

  1. Perception gives purpose to your thoughts, actions, and ultimately everything you do.
  2. We can change the course of our life by actively choosing our actions instead of just reacting to our impulses.
  3. Will is our internal power for perseverance, ready to give us hope when everything else fails.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.


The Best Stoic Quotes for Sharing on Social Media

Beyond the “highlight and share” feature you can use to post any quote on this page, we’ve also made some custom images for you to easily tap and share. Some are optimized for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, others follow Instagram’s classic square format or Pinterest’s more vertical layout.

For our image backgrounds, we decided to use busts, statues, and other art pieces created in hopes of capturing the likeness of some of these great minds. For some, we’ve decided to use photographs that fit the vibe of the quote. Fun fact: In 2020, I went to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which displays many a bust of famous Greeks and Romans, so some of the pictures I even took myself! Happy sharing!

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What Is Stoicism? Why Study This Ancient Philosophy?

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that started some 2,300 years ago. According to legend, a merchant named Zeno suffered shipwreck when traveling from Cyprus to Piraeus. Fortunately, Zeno survived and reached Athens, where he took a few weeks to recover. One day, reading a book in a bookstore about a man named Socrates, Zeno felt so inspired, he asked the store owner where he could “find more men like him.” Since a well-known philosopher happened to walk by the store in that moment, the owner simply pointed at him. Zeno began studying under this philosopher, and he never returned to Cyprus. He later started his own school of philosophy. His common way of teaching was to hold public discussions in column-lined walkways — so-called stoas — and it is from there that Stoicism both spread and received its name. For more on the origin story of Stoicism, you can read this essay I wrote about Zeno’s story.

So much for the legend! But what about the theory? At its core, Stoicism is simple: It proposes that in order to live a happy life, all we have to do is live an ethical life. “Virtue” as in “moral goodness” is the highest value in Stoicism. If you live ethically, based on reason, and in line with nature, you will live a good life. That’s the idea.

Stoicism — like all philosophy, by the way — is a way of life. A worldview, if you will. Reading books and attending lectures is part of philosophy but not the point of it. The point is to live a good life, right here, right now. Do you have a rule you never break? Like being a non-smoker, for example? If so, that rule is part of your worldview, and any set of rules that helps you navigate everyday life can be considered your philosophy.

For the Stoics, that set of rules revolved around 4 attitudes and 3 disciplines. The disciplines help us practice the attitudes, and when we fully embody them, we live virtuously and, therefore, happily.

The 4 attitudes are:

  1. Courage
  2. Temperance (or self-discipline)
  3. Justice
  4. Wisdom

The 3 areas in which we must strive to practice these attitudes are:

  1. Perception – the realm of our mind and how it processes what our senses take in
  2. Action – the realm of reality in which we enact our decisions
  3. Will – the realm of spirit, where our inner battles take place which affects how we act on what we experience

According to the Stoics, every day, we must study, practice, and train our minds, bodies, and spirits in these 3 disciplines. If we do, in time, we’ll become brave, disciplined, just, and wise — and those virtues, in turn, will ensure we live ethically and thus happily. “Eudaimonia,” the Stoics called it, “good-spiritedness.”

If you want to learn more about the theory of Stoicism and how to practice it, you can read my article “What Is Stoicism? in which I break down the entire philosophy in a single table. If you’re curious about the early Stoics and how they lived, I can recommend Ryan Holiday’s book Lives of the Stoics. Oh, and if you want to know what other philosophies are out there, check out our list of the best philosophy books.


That concludes our list of the best and most important Stoic quotes. What do you think? Did we pick a good selection? What kind of quotes from Stoics would you like to see more of? What’s your personal favorite? Let us know on Twitter, and we’ll be happy to update this list as we go along!

Other Quote Lists

Looking for more quotes from interesting people and lines from great books? Here are all quote lists we’ve hand-selected for you so far:

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Last Updated on September 26, 2023