Epictetus: Decide, Do, Become#


In the third volume, chapter XXIII §1, of his discourses compiled by Arrian[1], Epictetus[2] gives his advice “to those who read and discuss for the purpose of display”.

Here offers a terse appeal to think and act according to one’s objectives. Although usually quoted as “say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do”, there’s more context to Epictetus’ statement, which I reproduce below in full.


Tell yourself, first of all, what kind of man you want to be; and then go ahead with what you are doing. For in practically every other pursuit we see this done. The athletes first decide what kind of athletes they want to be, and then they act accordingly. If a man wants to be a distance-runner, he adopts a suitable diet, walking, rubbing, and exercise; if he wants to be a sprinter, all these details are different; if he wants to contend in the pentathlon, they are still more different