20 Stoic Quotes On Handling Adversity

History tends to show that Stoicism is often popular during times of difficulty or uncertainty. We’re in a resurgence of Stoicism precisely for that reason. Times are tumultuous and obstacles and adversities are plenty. The Stoic philosophers struggled just the same, which is why they write extensively about dealing with adversity. The art of life, Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself in Meditations, is “more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s.” It teaches you to “stand ready and firm to meet sudden and unexpected onsets.”

That’s what Stoicism is all about: learning to live a good life by developing peace of mind through confidence of one’s ability to overcome adversity. Here are 20 quotes from the great ancient Stoics to help you stand ready against adversity:

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“Even if some obstacle comes on the scene, its appearance is only to be compared to that of clouds which drift in front of the sun without ever defeating its light.” Seneca


“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” Seneca


“In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases. Whatever you have been expecting for some time comes as less of a shock.” Seneca


“For we are naturally disposed to admire more than anything else the man who shows fortitude in adversity.” Seneca


“Misfortune is virtue’s opportunity.” Seneca


“Constant misfortune brings this one blessing: to whom it always assails, it eventually fortifies.” Seneca


“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” Seneca


“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” Seneca


“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” Seneca


“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.” Seneca


“Excellence withers without an adversary.” Seneca


“I may wish to be free from torture, but if the time comes for me to endure it, I’ll wish to bear it courageously and with honor.” Seneca


“Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it—turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself—so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.” Marcus Aurelius


“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus Aurelius


“You have to assemble your life yourself…If you accept the obstacle and work with what you’re given, an alternative will present itself—another piece of what you’re trying to assemble.” Marcus Aurelius


“A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.” Marcus Aurelius


“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” Marcus Aurelius


“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it—not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it.” Marcus Aurelius


“Ask, ‘Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?’ You’ll be embarrassed to answer.” Marcus Aurelius  


“To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.” Marcus Aurelius


“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material.” Epictetus


“What would have become of Hercules, do you think, if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar – and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges? Obviously he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules.” Epictetus


“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own inner resources. The trails we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths. Prudent people look beyond the incident itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use. On the occasion of an accidental event, don’t just react in a haphazard fashion: remember to turn inward and ask what resources you have for dealing with it. Dig deeply. You possess strengths you might not realize you have. Find the right one. Use it.” Epictetus


“Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.” Epictetus


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