“Immediately prescribe some character and some form to yourself, which you shall observe at all times whether you are alone or in the company of others.” – Epictetus
Most of us will have heard the quote often attributed to John Wooden, “…Character is what he does when no one is watching.” Fewer of us might think that these thoughts may very well have originated nearly 2,000 years before Wooden spoke them.
As a means of approaching the world, setting our standard too be who we want to be before giving any thought to the way that others might perceive us is a much better way to set a standard that we will want to work towards meeting. And it will be work.
It is not easy to set the standard in the first place. The most common theme from Epictetus’ work – if we are using his standard – would be focusing only on that which is within our control. Ignoring the things that are outside of our control takes constant effort.
By taking the time to determine who it is we want to become when we are alone and dealing only with our perceptions, it will be a little easier to understand why we want that to be our standard. From there we will have a better understanding about why we want to discipline ourselves to meeting our own standards.
It makes the most sense though, to set these standards when no one is looking to remain true to ourselves. And it makes sense to set them today.
virtus fortis vocat