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Epictetus’s Key to True Joy

By Amarachukwu Okpunobi

I remember sitting in a conference room with my previous employer, working on a project with my department.

Before we dug into the tasks at hand, one of my supervisors offered an ice-breaking question to get us thinking.

“If money was no object,” she asked us, “what would you do with your time?”

The answers spanned much of what you might expect: travel, spend more time with family and friends, learn new skills, take up fun hobbies, and volunteer for charities or causes we’re passionate about.

But one answer, in particular, stuck with me:

“If money weren’t an issue, I think I would just be happy.”

It’s a simple answer, but it got me thinking. Why is it that achieving wealth is often seen as the key to happiness when it seems like wealth so often leads to unhappiness?

In today’s society, we are bombarded with messages telling us we need more stuff to be happy.

We’re told we need the newest car, the biggest house, and the latest fashion trends. We’re made to feel like we’re not good enough unless we have all of these things.

But what if the key to happiness doesn’t lie in acquiring more stuff, but in having fewer wants?

A Stoic’s Take on True Wealth

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said:

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

In other words, true wealth doesn’t come from what we have but from what we don’t need. This simple philosophy is one that we could all benefit from adopting.

Too often, we allow our possessions to control us. We work long hours to keep up with the Joneses, and we end up sacrificing our health, relationships, and happiness.

But if we can learn to want less, we can free ourselves from this cycle of discontent.

Imagine — rather than working to acquire more and more stuff, we could work to simplify our lives and focus on what truly matters. We could travel more, spend more time with loved ones, and pursue our passions. We could live a life of true freedom rather than being chained to our possessions. We could have all we really want — without having to give our lives to something lesser.

  1. Learn to appreciate what you have.

This one’s tough, especially in a society that’s constantly bombarding us with messages about what we need to buy. But it’s important to remember that stuff doesn’t make us happy — it’s just stuff. The next time you’re feeling discontent, take a moment to appreciate all the beautiful things you already have in your life.

  1. Be mindful of your wants.

It’s not wrong to want things — but it is essential to be mindful of what we want, and why we want it. Next time you find yourself wanting something, ask yourself: do I really need this? Will it add value to my life? Or am I just succumbing to the pressure of consumerism?

  1. Simplify your life.

One of the best ways to reduce your wants is to simplify your life. This could mean decluttering your home, getting rid of unnecessary possessions, or streamlining your schedule to focus on what’s truly important. When you live a simpler life, you’ll find that you need less stuff — and you’ll be happier as a result.

  1. Focus on what matters.

At the end of the day, what really matters in life? For most of us, it’s our relationships, our health, and our happiness. So why do we often put these things on the back burner in favor of work, material possessions, and other things that don’t truly matter? If you want to live a happier life, start focusing on what matters most. Spend time with loved ones, take care of your health, and do things that make you happy.

  1. Be grateful.

One of the best ways to find contentment in life is to practice gratitude. Whenever you’re feeling down, take a moment to think about all the things you’re grateful for. You might be surprised at how much happiness you can find just by taking the time to appreciate what you have.

Take A Stoic’s View of Life

No matter where you are in life, remember that true wealth doesn’t come from what you have — it comes from having fewer wants.

If you can learn to appreciate what you have, simplify your life, and focus on what matters most, you’ll be well on your way to living a happier, more content life.

Why not give it a shot — you never know. It just might change your life.

By Brad Bartlett