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Epictetus (55-135 CE) Enchiridion
A manual for living a contented life
Rendered by Charles Scamahorn (1935- ) 2014

Paragraph 34

When a great pleasure becomes available to you, pause for a moment to consider your options. Project your mind to a time in the future, an hour, a day, a year, and consider two things; how you will feel about having accepted the pleasure, and how you will feel about having rejected it. The choice is yours, but which choice will bring you greater satisfaction with yourself at those future times? Which choice will enhance your habits for a more tranquil life, and build your character for coping with your future problems? At those future times will you condemn your self for your shortsighted actions, or take satisfaction at having been able to resist a great temptation. Sometimes, you will choose to accept the pleasures that come your way, but even then maintain some self control, so as not to be overcome with pleasures and become addicted to them. In your mind compare the momentary pleasures with the lasting ones of directing your own desires and life.

COMMENTS

As has been shown, by current scientific experiments, tempting five year old children with a single Marshmallow Test, or promising them two if they wait a short time. The ability to project their thoughts, and rewards into the future is highly correlated with their future success in life. That test is the modern science, but Epictetus carries this thought much further, and gives a method for learning and cultivating this ability and making it part of our habitual character. Paragraph 34 discusses our coping with pleasures, but this booklet has many other examples of coping with problems with the goal of a long and tranquil life.

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