The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, , at sacred-texts.com
We ought not to train ourselves in unnatural or extraordinary actions, for in that case we who claim to be philosophers shall be no better than mountebanks. For it is difficult to walk on a tight-rope, and not only difficult but dangerous as well: ought we for that reason to practise walking on a tight-rope or setting up a palm-tree, or embracing statues? By no means. Not everything that is difficult and dangerous is suitable for training, but only that which is conducive to what is set before us as the object of our effort. What is set before us as the object of our effort? To move without hindrance in the will to get and the will to avoid. And what does that mean? Not to fail in what we will nor to fall into what we avoid. To this end, therefore, let our training be directed: for since it is impossible without great and continuous effort to secure that the will to get fail not and the will to avoid be not foiled,
know that, if you allow training to be directed to things lying outside and beyond the will, you will not get what you will to get nor avoid what you will to avoid.
And since habit has established a strong predominance, because we have acquired the habit of turning our will to get and our will to avoid only to what lies outside our control, we must set a contrary habit to counteract the former, and where impressions are most likely to go wrong there employ training as an antidote.
I am inclined to pleasure: in order to train myself I will incline beyond measure in the opposite direction. I am disposed to avoid trouble: I will harden and train my impressions to this end, that my will to avoid may hold aloof from everything of this kind. For how do we describe the man who trains? He is the man who practises avoiding the use of his will to get, and willing to avoid only what is in the sphere of the will and who exercises himself in what is hard to overcome. And so different men have to train for different objects. What is it to the purpose here to set up a palm-tree, or to carry about a hut of skins or a pestle and mortar? Man, train yourself, if you are arrogant, to bear with being reviled, and not to be annoyed when you are disparaged. Then you will make such progress that, even if you are struck, you will say to yourself, 'Imagine that you have embraced a statue.' Next train yourself to use wine properly, not for heavy drinking—for there are men misguided enough to train for this—but first to abstain from wine, and to leave alone pretty maids and sweet cakes. Then, if the proper time comes, you will enter the lists, if at all, to try yourself and learn whether your impressions overcome you as before. But to begin with, fly far from enemies that are stronger than you. The battle is an unequal one when it is between a pretty maid and a young man beginning philosophy. 'Pot and stone', as the saying is, 'do not agree.'
Next after the will to get and the will to avoid comes the sphere of impulse for action and against action: where the object is to obey reason, not to do anything at the wrong time or place, or offend the harmony of things in any other way.
Third comes the sphere of assents, concerned with things plausible and attractive. For, as Socrates bade men 'not live a life without examination', so you ought not to accept an impression without examination, but say, 'Wait, let me see who you are and whence you come', just as the night-watch say, 'Show me your token.' 'Have you the token given by nature, which the impression that is to be accepted must have?'
And to conclude, the methods which are applied to the body by those who exercise it, may themselves conduce to training, if they tend in this direction, that is, if they bear upon the will to get and the will to
avoid. But if their object is display, they are the marks of one who has swerved from the right line, whose aims are alien, one who is looking for spectators to say, 'What a great man!' This is why Apollonius was right in saying, 'If you wish to train for your soul's sake, when you are thirsty in hot weather take a mouthful of cold water and spit it out and tell no one!'