The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, , at sacred-texts.com
Consider which of the aims that you set before you at the first you have achieved, and which you have not, and how some things give you pleasure to remember and some give you pain; and if possible, recover what you failed to obtain. For those who are entering on the greatest of all struggles must not shrink, but must be ready to endure stripes; for the struggle they are concerned with is not wrestling or the pancration, in which a man may succeed or fail, and yet be worth little or worth very much—nay more, he may be most fortunate or most miserable; no, his struggle is for good fortune and happiness itself.
What follows? In this competition, even if we give in for the moment, nothing prevents us from returning to the struggle; we have not to wait for another four years for the next Olympic Games to come. At once you may recover yourself, and pull yourself together, and renew the struggle with the same energy as before; and if you grow faint
again, you may renew it again, and if you once attain to victory you are as one who has never failed. Only do not begin to take a pleasure in failing from sheer force of habit, and go about as a sorry athlete defeated in the whole round of all the Games, for all the world like quails that have escaped!
'I am overpowered by the impression of a pretty maid. Well! was I not overpowered lately? I am eager to find fault with some one. Did I not do so lately?'
You talk lightly to us, as though you had got off scot-free. It is as though a man, when his doctor forbade him to bathe, should say, 'Why, did not I bathe quite lately?' What if the doctor can answer him, 'Well, what effect did bathing have on you? Did you not fall into a fever? Did you not get a headache?' So when you found fault with some one lately, was it not the act of a bad man, and of a foolish one? Did you not feed this habit, by putting before it acts which were congenial to it? And when the pretty girl was too much for you, did you get away unpunished? What do you mean then by talking of what you did lately? Nay, you ought rather, I think, to have remembered, as slaves remember their floggings, and to have refrained from repeating the same offence. But it is not the same thing: pain makes the memory of the slave, but what pain or penalty attends your offences? When did you acquire the habit of avoiding evil activities?