101 Meaningful Stoic Quotes on Life

Updated October 1, 2022

If you're reading this right now, it means you share something in common with more than 7 billion people-- you're alive. These meaningful Stoic quotes on life auger right to the core of some of the most important matters that concern every single one of us.

The Stoics believed that a good life can be achieved through living a virtuous life in accordance with nature.

This might sound stodgy and boring to the uninitiated, but these ancient philosophers were definitely onto something. Let's look at what they and other Stoic-minded thinkers have to say about the astronomically large topic of life.

Stoic Quotes on Living in the Present

One of the reasons that Stoicism has gained popularity in recent years is that it has helped countless people let go of their worry and anxiety about the past and future and focus on the here and now. The Stoics were all too aware that the only thing we really have in our lives is the present moment, so we should put our attention there and use it well.

marcus aurelius image and stoic quote about life

 

“Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“ 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

“The true felicity of life is to be free from anxieties and perturbations; to understand and do our duties to God and man, and to enjoy the present without any serious dependence on the future.”

– Seneca

Remember that even if you were to live for three thousand years, or thirty thousand, you could not lose any other life than the one you have, and there will be no other life after it. So the longest and the shortest lives are the same. The present moment is shared by all living creatures, but the time that is past is gone forever. No one can lose the past or the future, for if they don't belong to you, how can they be taken from you?”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

— Marcus Aurelius

“ Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant; all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

— Buddha

“Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Simplify your life. Don't waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don't burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don't destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present. Simplify!"

— Henry David Thoreau

"One today is worth two tomorrows."

— Benjamin Franklin

"The secret of health for both mind and body is...live the present moment wisely and earnestly."

— Buddha

"The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness."

— Abraham Maslow

"With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoic Quotes on Life and Your Mindset

If you're new to Stoicism, you might just find that the Stoic view on your mindset is about to radically change your life. It's easy to walk around life feeling like you are just a pinball getting bounced around by the things that happen to you. However, if you can take charge of your own mindset and realize that you do have control over certain things-- namely your thoughts and actions-- you can completely transform your experience of life and who you are for the better.

marcus aurelius image and quote about life

“Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Our life is what our thoughts make it. Do every act of your life as if it were your last. In a word, your life is short. You must make the most of the present with the aid of reason and justice. Since it is possible that you may be quitting life this very moment, govern every act and thought accordingly.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.”

– Marcus Aurelius

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality."

– William James

“If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to grow.”

– Buddha

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

– George Bernard Shaw

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose on thought over another."

– William James

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."

— William James

Quotes on the Purpose of Life

What is life for? Why are we here? The Stoics certainly were very aware of these questions-- in fact, the entire philosophy is built around one central goal: living in agreement with nature.

seneca image and stoic quote about life

“We learn not in the school, but in life.”

– Seneca

"If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according to what others think, you will never be rich."

– Seneca

"Happiness is a good flow of life."

– Zeno of Citium

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“ Man's ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy-that he live in accordance with his own nature.”

– Seneca

“This life is only a prelude to eternity.”

– Seneca

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”

– Winston S. Churchill

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The soul which has no fixed purpose in life is lost; to be everywhere, is to be nowhere.”

– Michel de Montaigne

“The two most important days in life are the day you born and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quotes on Making Use of the Time We Have

Do you feel like you never have enough time? Are you waiting to do the things you really want to do someday down the road?

According to the Stoics, we all waste a lot of time in reality. How we use our time is one of the few things in our control, so we should put the lion's share of our attention in this direction.

“We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.”

– Seneca

“The part of life which we really live is short.”

– Seneca

“This body is not a home, but an inn; and that only for a short time.”

– Seneca

“While we are postponing, life speeds by.”

– Seneca

“We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end to them.”

– Seneca

“To live is not a blessing, but to live well.”

– Seneca

“Make haste to live, and consider each day a life.”

– Seneca

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.”

— Deepak Chopra

"It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"

-- Henry David Thoreau

"Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time."

- Jim Rohn

"If you can change your mind, you can change your life."

– William James

"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can't afford to lose."

-- Thomas Edison

"Once a decision is reached, stop worrying and start working."

– William James

Stoic Quotes on How to Live

Stoicism is a wonderful philosophy for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that it's actually a practical philosophy. This means that in the ancient Stoic texts and in many modern Stoic books, you can find advice that you can incorporate into your day-to-day experiences.

The Stoics didn't just sit around coming up with fun ideas to make you sound smart at parties-- they were contemplating how best to live. If you're new to the world of Stoicism, you might just find that the Stoic perspective on how to live could very tangibly change your life.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

– Marcus Aurelius

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

– Marcus Aurelius

marcus aurelius image and quote about the art of living

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Give thyself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“To live each day as though one's last, never flustered, never apathetic, never attitudinizing - here is the perfection of character.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“It is not the length of life, but the depth.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You may not get everything you dream about, but you will never get anything you don't dream about."

– William James

Stoic Quotes on Taking Each Action Seriously

Do you struggle to see the purpose in the mundane tasks you do every day? Do you feel like what you do is pointless and meaningless? According to the Stoics, every single action of life deserves a "proper dignity," and every little action we take "echoes in eternity."

This might be terrifying to think about at first, particularly if you are prone to spending your time doing things you aren't proud of. However, if you can remind yourself of this reality a few times every day, you can spend more and more time taking your actions seriously and building a life you're happy living.

“What we do now echoes in eternity.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Remember this - that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

– William James

Quotes on Life and Death

The Stoics talk a lot about death, and for good reason-- it's one of the very few certainties in life. There are a lot of wise words to be found in the writings of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and the other Stoics about freeing yourself from the fear of death and accepting it as a natural part of life.

Beyond that, the Stoics would purposefully meditate on death as a way of enriching their lives. If you think this sounds morbid, it just means you haven't tried it yet.

When you can tap into the reality that you're going to die, it helps you realize that your time here on earth is fleeting. It can be useful to imagine that you are at the end of your life looking back on what you did and who you were.

This can be a major wake-up call or it can help you see that you're on a path you're happy with. Either way, this practice is one that you can use over and over again to remind yourself that the time to become the person you want to be is right now.

“You want to live-but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying-and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

– Seneca

“When you die, it will not be because you are sick, but because you were alive.”

– Seneca

“Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.”

– Seneca

“Our care should not be to have lived long as to have lived enough.”

– Seneca

“Every day, therefore, should be regulated as if it were the one that brings up the rear, the one that rounds out and completes our lives.”

– Seneca

“The wise man lives as long as he should, not just as long as he likes.”

– Seneca

"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

– Mark Twain

"As a day well spent brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death."

– Leonardo da Vinci

"Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it."

- Haruki Murakami

"Every mortal will taste death but only some will taste life."

– Rumi

Quotes on Philosophy as the Path to a Good Life

You can certainly go through your life without any self-awareness of the philosophy that guides you-- plenty of people do it every day. However, you can really take things to the next level both in your own self-development and in the impact you have on others by being self-conscious (in a good way) of your philosophy.

Epictetus gives us beautiful, simple advice when it comes to the way we make our choices and live our lives-- he tells us to stop telling others how we live and simply live that way.

“Life is a gift of the immortal Gods, but living well is the gift of philosophy.”

– Seneca

“Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.”

– Epictetus

“We live not according to reason, but according to fashion.”

– Seneca

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be."

– Abraham H. Maslow

"Three things cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon, and the Truth."

– Buddha

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoic Quotes About Choice in Life

One of the most empowering things about Stoicism is the reality that you have an infinite number of choices in life when it comes to what you think, how you feel, what you say, and what you do. Seneca even points out that you have a choice as to whether you are even alive at all.

If you're unhappy with your life, it's easy to look at all of the bad things that happened to you and blame your misfortune on them. Maybe you lost all your money in a bad investment or you weren't born into a wealthy family. The reality is, though, that you are constantly making choices whether you realize it or not, and the sooner you do realize this, the sooner you can make your life into something you want.

seneca image and stoic quote about life

“This is the reason we cannot complain of life: it keeps no one against his will.”

– Seneca

"You are your choices."

Seneca

"Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made."

– Wayne Dyer

"The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become."

Heraclitus

"I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday."

– Eleanor Roosevelt

"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions."

Stephen Covey

"Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny."

Aristotle

"It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."

Tony Robbins

"In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Quotes About the Fleeting Nature of Life

You've heard it said before-- life is short. It seems particularly short when you do as Marcus Aurelius did and picture your own life in the expanse of all of time and space. Rather than being a one-way ticket to Nihilism-town, though, this can actually be a great way to help you weed out the things that don't matter at all and focus only on the things that do.

“Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man - yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hairsbreadth of time assigned to thee, live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Every instant of time… is a pinprick of eternity.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Spend your brief moment according to nature's law, and serenely greet the journey's end as an olive falls when it is ripe, blessing the branch that bare it, and giving thanks to the tree that gave it life.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Deem not life a thing of consequence. For look at the yawning void of the future, and at that other limitless space, the past.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Life is a warfare and a stranger's sojourn, and after fame is oblivion.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Life is short and the older you get, the more you feel it. Indeed, the shorter it is."

– Viggo Mortensen

"The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them... Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will."

– Michel de Montaigne

Quotes on What Matters in Life

What do you want out of life? If you think being rich and famous will make you happy, the ancient Stoics would like to have a word with you. At the end of the day, the things that really matter in life actually are the virtuous activities we partake in.

“All human beings seek the happy life, but many confuse the means - for example, wealth and status - with that life itself. This misguided focus on the means to a good life makes people get further from the happy life. The really worthwhile things are the virtuous activities that make up the happy life, not the external means that may seem to produce it.

– Epictetus

“Try to enjoy the great festival of life with other men!”

– Epictetus

“We should have a bond of sympathy for all sentient beings, knowing that only the depraved and base take pleasure in the sight of blood and suffering.”

– Seneca

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me."

– Steve Jobs

"We are so busy doing the urgent that we don't have time to do the important."

– Confucius

"It does not matter if you are a rose or a lotus or a marigold. What matters is that you are flowering."

– Rajneesh

"What really matters is what you do with what you have."

– H. G. Wells

"Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoicism as a Practical Guide to Life

The philosophy of Stoicism seems to have a habit of cropping back up into our collective consciousness during chaotic times. In the last ten years or so, it's become increasingly popular in the U.S. and around the world as people try to make sense of their lives.

One of the wonderful things about this philosophy is that you don't need a Ph.D. to begin to apply its ideas to your life. At the same time, there is a tremendous depth to the wisdom of the ancient Stoics and the many great thinkers that were influenced by them.

Stoicism really is a practical philosophy that you can apply to your life as you go through your day-- no matter how mundane or exciting your current activity is. You can use Stoicism to change the way you look at your life and yourself and use it as a guide to shift you toward being the person you want to be-- a little bit every day.

If you ever feel overwhelmed by life or perplexed by life, there is likely a Stoic quote that will strike a deep chord within you. When that time comes, be sure to check out our growing library of Stoic quotes and articles.

Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website provides the best stoic quotations on the topics of life, death, control, anxiety, and wisdom in general.

Memento Mori.
Copyright © 2022 - StoicQuotes.com
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram