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

Paragraph 50

The rules you deliberately create for learning to control yourself are yours alone. Abide by them as if they were immutable laws of nature. Totally disregard what anyone says about these self-chosen rules, because their function is to train you to personally gain control of yourself and your habits.


Begin your journey by choosing a simple, easily accomplished task that you can routinely do until it is a habit. It can be something you usually do several times a day, but could choose to do slightly differently. Carefully think through exactly how you want to do this new behavior, and then consciously practice it a few times. Now let yourself be distracted by something for a while, so you will not be aware of your new action, and then return to the situation where it might be employed. Just before you are to do the action notice the physical and mental precursors, and then consciously react to those precursors. That is the moment where you will learn to form the habit. Be very careful to react the way you have chosen, because any reversion to your old way of reacting will be a powerful influence on your future ability to direct your own learning process. To gain control you must take control. If you observe carefully, you will notice it takes at least ten unique exposures to the new response before it becomes automatic, and if it is a complex task that you have been doing for years it will take much longer, probably a hundred unique exposures and new responses.