Plato was an Aristocrat, who lived under the 30 Tyrants imposed on Athens by Sparta after, as he saw it, democracy proved ineffective at military decision making. Plato attempted direct political action, by supporting The Tyrant of Syracuse. It did not go well.
Epictetus was born into slavery, and later was banished from Rome along with all philosophers by Emperor Domitian. He always had to find a difficult line between change and acceptance, of slavery, of the government. It's hard to make reforms, when you're dead.
"I only worry about sending the fruits of the garden which I cultivate
off to be sold there.’ Having said these words, he invited the
strangers into his house; his two sons and two daughters presented
them with several sorts of sherbet, which they had made themselves,
with kaimak enriched with the candied-peel of citrons, with oranges,
lemons, pine-apples, pistachio-nuts, and Mocha coffee… – after which
the two daughters of the honest Muslim perfumed the strangers’ beards.
‘You must have a vast and magnificent estate,’ said Candide to the
turk. ‘I have only twenty acres,’ replied the old man; ‘I and my
children cultivate them; and our labour preserves us from three great
evils: weariness, vice, and want.’ Candide, on his way home, reflected
deeply on what the old man had said. ‘This honest Turk,’ he said to
Pangloss and Martin, ‘seems to be in a far better place than kings…. I
also know,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden." "
-Voltaire, in 'Candide'
Voltaire lived during extraordinarily violent and turbulent times. He worked on the Encyclopedia, one of the most defining projects of the Age of Enlightenment, which aimed at being a 'Bible of reason'. He barely escaped execution multiple times for his temerity in doing that, and other deviations from the state's politics and theology. He feuded with other reformers like Rousseau, about how to change things. He certainly had wished to change the world, and knew many others with that wish, and it has to be said he probably did, or was at least part of doing so. So, this passage from Candide must be understood as all the more striking in light of that.
It's very easy to burn out if all your energy and attention is focused on causing a visible change in the world, given that such changes are almost inevitably slow, if they are going to last. It is crucial to cultivate a nourishing way to be, from which to act. I take that as the real message of Candide, because of course Voltaire did not simply stay home in his garden, he wrote and published this book for instance. I think he is saying, satisfaction and happiness don't come from trying to change the world, we should seperate and balance those things, that to plant good seeds in the world we must be cultivating our own garden, that is finding a healthy and happy way to be with ourselves, above imposing ways to be on others.
"Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various
ways; the point is to change it"
-Marx, 11th in his 'Theses on Feuerbach'
Marx made perhaps the most uncompromising call for philosophers to engage in creating political change, from his outrage over the conditions of the Industrial Revolution. Yet Stalin was much like a Tsar, as is Putin.
I would say the key to successful political change is making the argument, pursuading others and winning over a majority for change. A minority imposing choices, always results in measures having to be taken to enforce those, and moves towards autocracy - whether or not that is called 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Discussed in relation to the social contract and Game Theory here: Is the tyrannicide perpetrated by William Tell morally legitimate?
Embedding key rights and laws allows people to recruit others to their ideas, and restrict governments being able to impose theirs, is key to a society remaining cohesive without autocracy, and must be a priority to defend - and extend. Citizen Assemblies are a really promising avenue, which are actually a system used in Ancient Athens called sortition, where contentious decisions are made by a jury of citizens chosen by lot, who must listen to evidence from all sides before coming to conclusions. Discussed here: Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism
"The work of an intellectual is not to form the political will of
others; it is, through the analyses he does in his own domains, to
bring assumptions and things taken for granted again into question, to
shake habits, ways of acting and thinking, to dispel the familiarity
of the accepted, to take the measure of rules and institutions and,
starting from that re-problematization (where he plays his specific
role as intellectual) to take part in the formation of a political
will (where he has his role to play as citizen)."
-Foucault, in an interview in 1984
Or more pithily:
"Don't act. Just think."
-Zizek, in a Big Think video
I see this as about accepting that there are different tasks to take up, and the realpolitik and chicanery necessary for practical politics is generally in conflict with the best philosophical thinking. See Does philosophy have a dark side? As philosophers, our task is to do the best thinking we can.
It is common to describe Stoicism as a form of Quietism, as the withdrawal from attempts to change things. But Marcus Aurelius is the epitamy of an engaged-Stoic, and wrote his Meditations while ruling Rome, towards him understanding how to find a balance between change, and acceptance.
I'd say the best advice, as discussed here Is quietude a good thing? is the Serenity Prayer:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference."
-attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr