Besides having complete control over our goals and values, Marcus Aurelius points out that we have complete control over our character. We are, he says, the only ones who can stop ourselves from attaining goodness and integrity. We have it entirely within our power, for example, to prevent viciousness and cupidity from finding a home in our soul. If we are slow-witted, it might not be in our power to become a scholar, but there is nothing to stop us from cultivating a number of other qualities, including sincerity, dignity, industriousness, and sobriety; nor is there anything to stop us from taking steps to curb our arrogance, to rise above pleasures and pains, to stop lusting after popularity, and to control our temper. Furthermore, we have it in our power to stop grumbling, to be considerate and frank, to be temperate in manner and speech, and to carry ourselves “with authority.” These qualities, Marcus observes, can be ours at this very moment—if we choose for them to be.
From “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”
by William B. Irvine