113 Stoic Quotes on Time to Move On

Updated November 22, 2022

Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s easy to stay attached to someone or a life circumstance even when it no longer makes sense. These Stoic quotes on time to move on can help you find the strength to see your situation realistically, accept fate, and forge forward in life.

Whether you need to move on from a job, a relationship, a phase of life, a belief, or something else entirely, the ancient Stoics and other great thinkers are here with timeless advice on letting go and moving forward.

Stoic Quotes on Moving On and Accepting Fate

The Stoic philosophers embraced the concept of loving one’s fate, known by the Latin phrase amor fati. They believed that everything that occurs in your life– the good, the bad, and the indifferent– is necessary.

In many cases, it can be difficult to move on from a situation because we aren’t willing to let ourselves look at what is happening realistically. We are caught up in the extreme emotions surrounding the circumstance, and that drives us to want to hold on even when it no longer serves us.

cleanthes image and quote about time to move on

“Fate guides the willing, but drags the unwilling.”

– Cleanthes

“How powerful is man! He is able to do all that God wishes him to do. He is able to accept all that God sends upon him.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“It's the great soul that surrenders itself to fate, but a puny degenerate thing that struggles.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Vex not thy spirit at the course of things; they heed not thy vexation. How ludicrous and outlandish is astonishment at anything that may happen in life.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

– C. S. Lewis

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

– E. M. Forster

“I follow four dictates: face it, accept it, deal with it, then let it go.”

– Sheng-yen

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

– Dr. Seuss

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

– Joseph Campbell

“You are responsible for your life. You can't keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunction. Life is really about moving on.”

– Oprah Winfrey

“Often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

– Helen Keller

Quotes on Controlling Your Mindset

Another important lesson we can learn from the Stoics when it comes to moving on is the fact that you are in control of your mindset, your beliefs, your opinions, and your actions.

To help understand this concept, let’s say that you were in a relationship and your spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend broke up with you unexpectedly. You thought things were going great in your relationship, and you find that you wake up every morning with the expectation that your ex will come to their senses and want to be with you again.

Of course, there is a necessary and natural grieving process that happens when you deal with a situation like this. However, if a lot of time has gone by and you feel you are unable to move on, it’s possible that you are letting your thoughts and feelings control you rather than the other way around.

While you can’t change the fact that your partner left you, and you can’t control whether they want to get back together with you, you can control how you frame the situation. For instance, is it possible that this is a blessing in disguise, as you sorely need some time to focus and work on yourself? Have you been so blinded by the insult of having been broken up with that you haven’t even considered that the relationship wasn’t right for you?

These are only examples, but you get the drift. You have the power to see this situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. In fact, looking back, you might see that it is the best thing that ever happened to you.

epictetus image and quote on time to move on

Nothing truly stops you. Nothing truly holds you back. For your own will is always within your control. Sickness may challenge your body. But are you merely your body? Lameness may impede your legs. But you are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs. Your will needn't be affected by an incident unless you let it.”

– Epictetus

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

– Epictetus

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

– Marcus Aurelius

“What's the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The place one's in, though, doesn't make any contribution to peace of mind: it's the spirit that makes everything agreeable to oneself.”

– Seneca the Younger

“If you have a different mindset, you will have a different outcome: if you make different choices from your peers, your life will then be different from your peers.”

– Jack Ma

“What you think you become.”

– Gautama Buddha

”You have two choices: to control your mind or to let your mind control you.”

– Paulo Coelho

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”

– Napoleon Hill

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

– Horace

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

– Gautama Buddha

Stoic Quotes About Living in the Present

When we have a hard time moving on, it often means that we are stuck in the past and failing to live in the present. The Stoic philosophers (and a number of other impressive minds from other traditions, such as Gautama Buddha) have a number of quotable quotes on this topic that can help you remember to seize the moment rather than wallow in a time that is long gone.

marcus aurelius image and quote about holding on

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

– Marcus Aurelius

"It is not possible to live well today unless you treat it as your last day."

– Musonius Rufus

“ If you separate from . . . everything you have done in the past, everything that disturbs you about the future . . . and apply yourself to living the life that you are living-that is to say, the present-you can live all the time that remains to you until your death in calm, benevolence, and serenity.”

– Marcus Aurelius

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

– Seneca the Younger

“Past and future have no power over you. Just the present - and even that can be minimized.”

– Marcus Aurelius

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

– Gautama Buddha

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

– Deepak Chopra

“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

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”

– Walt Whitman

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”

– Oprah Winfrey

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

– Henry David Thoreau

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.”

– Francis Bacon

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.”

– Maya Angelou

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

– Wayne Dyer

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.”

– Mark Twain

Stoic Quotes About the Past

It’s possible to spend one’s entire life a few steps behind, always longing for a past that is gone and unable to connect with the actual moment. Seneca the Younger gives us succinct and powerful advice when he reminds us not to “stumble over something” that’s behind us and that, of the three periods of life, only “the past is certain.”

If you are having a hard time moving on from something, it’s important to recognize that there is nothing you can do to go back in time and change what has happened. This is out of your control. What you can control is how you understand the situation now and how that understanding informs your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions in the present.

seneca image and quote on time to move on

“Don't stumble over something behind you.”

– Seneca the Younger

“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The swiftness of time is infinite, as is still more evident when we look back on the past.”

– Seneca the Younger

“How very near us stand the two vast gulfs of time, the past and the future, in which all things disappear.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Life is divided into three periods: that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.”

– Seneca the Younger

“If you aren’t in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret.”

– Jim Carrey

“There is a fine balance between honoring the past and losing yourself in it. For example, you can acknowledge and learn from mistakes you made, and then move on and refocus on the now. It is called forgiving yourself.”

– Eckhart Tolle

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

– Will Rogers

“Study the past, if you would divine the future.”

– Confucius

“The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.”

– Alan Moore

“The past has no power over the present moment.”

– Eckhart Tolle

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

– Rick Warren

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”

– George Washington

"The past stays put, I just keep moving farther away from it."

Thomas Jefferson

Quotes About the Future

Perhaps you are struggling to move forward in life because you are anxious (or even terrified) about what the future holds. Maybe you don’t want to move out of your parents' house because you are worried you won’t be able to make it out in the world on your own, even though it is clearly high time to get out there and make a life for yourself.

Whatever it is that is holding you back; the truth is that worrying about and fixating on the future is not something that serves us in our quest for a happy, virtuous life with good flow.

“The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable.”

– Seneca the Younger

“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

– Epictetus

“The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.”

– Seneca the Younger

“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

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.”

– Seneca the Younger

"No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen."

Alan Watts

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

– Jim Rohn

“I always live in the present. The future I can’t know. The past I no longer have.”

– Fernando Pessoa

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past, if you are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

– Lao Tzu

"If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o'-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death."

Alan Watts

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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again."

Benjamin Franklin

Stoic Quotes on Being Happy

When we don’t let ourselves move on from something that is over and done with, we get in the way of our ability to be happy.

Let’s say that you lost a job you had worked incredibly hard for. Dealing with this type of loss can be difficult, and it’s easy to fixate on how to regain the position you so recently had.

The more time you spend thinking this way, though, the more time you are keeping yourself from the prospects of happiness. As Epictetus frequently reminds us, we are wise and happy when we rejoice for the things we have rather than grieve for the things that aren’t ours.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

– Epictetus

“ He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”

– Epictetus

“Wellbeing is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.”

– Zeno of Citium

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

– Epictetus

“If what you have seems insufficient to you, then though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

– Epictetus

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

– Epictetus

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

– Anne Frank

“You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”

– Epicurus

“Just stop for a minute and you'll realize you're happy just being. I think it's the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it's right here.”

– James Hillman

“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.”

– William Penn

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

– Carl Jung

“It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”

– Dale Carnegie

Quotes About Change and Loss

Change is hard– no question about it. We can surprise ourselves sometimes and have a hard time moving on from situations that we didn’t even particularly love or feel suited us.

For instance, maybe you are graduating from college and getting ready to make a life for yourself in the real world. You didn’t really like college– you found the classes either underwhelming or overly stressful, the people uninteresting, and the expense nearly unbearable. In this example, you’d think that someone would be chomping at the bit to get out there and do something different.

This can certainly happen, and maybe this is exactly what happened to you. But for some of us, change can be a struggle even when we aren’t particularly happy with the circumstances we are leaving behind. This is in line with the old saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

Marcus Aurelius, in particular, has some really profound advice to offer us when it comes to dealing with change. He recognizes that change is the only way things happen in the universe, and it is natural and good.

seneca image and quote on time to move on

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Does a man shrink from change? Why, what can come into being save by change?”

– Marcus Aurelius

“All things change, and you yourself are constantly wasting away. So also is the universe.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“ Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The things which we hold in our hands, which we see with our eyes, and which our avarice hugs, are transitory, they may be taken from us by ill luck or by violence; but a kindness lasts even after the loss of that by means of which it was bestowed; for it is a good deed, which no violence can undo.”

– Seneca the Younger

“As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.”

– Confucius

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

– Wayne Dyer

“You can only lose what you cling to.”

– Gautama Buddha

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

– Jim Rohn

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”

– Carl Jung

Stoic Quotes on Choices

There are a lot of things we don’t have control over. Epictetus, however, lists out the things that are in our control: “opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and… our own actions.” It can be a hard pill to swallow when you feel you are suffering, but the inability to move on is, at some level, a choice you are making.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.”

– Epictetus

“You are your choices.”

– Seneca the Younger

“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

“Allow the world to live as it chooses, and allow yourself to live as you choose.”

– Richard Bach

“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice.”

– Wayne Dyer

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

– Tony Robbins

“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

Quotes About Feeling Hurt

When you are deeply pained by something that has happened, it might sound a bit insulting for someone to tell you that you are choosing to feel hurt. However, that is exactly what the Stoics propose. They believed that you are in control of how you react to certain situations and that you can make a situation no longer hurtful by choosing not to be hurt by it.

“Things themselves don't hurt or hinder us. Things simply are what they are. How we view these things is another matter. People think what they will think; it is of no concern to us.”

– Epictetus

“Get rid of the judgment... get rid of the 'I am hurt,' you are rid of the hurt itself.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Don’t consent to be hurt and you won’t be hurt – this is a choice over which you have control.”

– Epictetus

“It doesn't hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

– Wayne Dyer

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”

– Dalai Lama

“You can't change how people act, but what you can change is how you react.”

– Bonnie Hammer

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but the attitude we bring to life.”

– Wade Boggs

“We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally.”

– Dalai Lama

Moving on in life is hard, but the experience will help you grow in ways you didn’t even know were possible. The wisdom of the ancient Stoics and other like-minded thinkers can help us understand our own lives better and make sense of our circumstances so that we can act in the way that is most virtuous. After all, the Stoics believed that being virtuous was both necessary and sufficient to lead a good, happy life.

There is a true wealth of knowledge in the words of the Stoics, even though they lived thousands of years before the current year. By engaging with their thought-provoking and inspirational quotes, you can better yourself and your life one day at a time.

 

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.

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