It was Heraclitus--a favorite of Marcus Aurelius--who said that “to be self-controlled is the greatest of excellence.” Isn’t that the truth? It’s why we admire athletes and Navy SEALS and the Civil Rights Activists of the 1950s and 1960s.
To see someone being provoked with horrific language and threatened with bodily violence--only to ignore it. To see someone under incredible pressure and perform despite it. To see someone override their fears and physical limitations in service of their country. This, we know, is self-control par excellence.
The reason we study this philosophy, follow its precepts and practice its exercises, is to develop our own ability to control ourselves. To control our desires, our emotions, our bodies, and our minds. So that under pressure, under threat, under siege, we can be our best selves. We are working to get ourselves under control so that we can be excellent--we can be virtuous--and because we know that self-control is its own form of excellence.
It’s a hard thing to do, and that’s why we admire it.