Marcus Aurelius, known as the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, dedicated this life to self-mastery and conquering the mind. He was a devout Stoic and aimed to live life as simply as he could wanting nothing but to be the best version of himself. He wrote his thoughts and philosophies and they became Meditations By Marcus Aurelius.
Those thoughts are still relevant today almost 2000 years later.
That is because we battle the same demons. The demons of procrastination, self-doubt, malicious men, and excess pleasure.
Through adopting these mindsets we can eliminate weaknesses of the body and mind and achieve unshakable confidence.
Quotations from Marcus Aurelius
Consider the opinions of only people who matter
He bears in mind too the kinship of all rational beings, and that caring for all men is in accordance with man’s nature, but that nevertheless he should not hold to the opinions of all, but only of those who live their lives in agreement with nature. He will constantly remind himself what sort of people they are who do not lead such lives – what they are like both at home and abroad, by night and by day, they and the polluting company they keep. So he disregards even the praise of such men- these are people who are not even satisfied with themselves.
If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigour, and good will: if you admit no distraction, … expecting nothing, shirking nothing, but self-content with each present action taken in accordance with nature and a heroic truthfulness in all that you say and mean – then you will lead a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.
Entertain only the truth
When someone does you wrong, do not judge things as he interprets them or would like you to interpret them. Just see them as they are, in plain truth.
Focus on your own path
What ease of mind you gain from not looking at what your neighbor has said or done or thought, but only at your own actions, to make them just, reverential, imbued with good! So do not glance at the black characters either side, but run right onto the line: straight, not straggly.
The lack of praise does not indicate the lack of beauty
Everything in any way beautiful has its beauty of itself, inherent and self-sufficient: praise is no part of it. At any rate, praise does not make anything better or worse. This applies even to the popular conception of beauty, as in material things or works or art. So does the truly beautiful need anything beyond itself? No more than law, no more than truth, no more than kindness or integrity. Which of these things dereives its beauty from praise, or withers under criticism? Does an emerald lose its quality if it is not praised? And what of gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a dagger, a flower, a bush?
Pain is subjective
I myself am not yet harmed, unless I judge this occurrence something bad, and I can refuse to do so.
Whenever you suffer pain, have ready to hand the thought that pain is not a moral evil and does not harm your governing intelligence: pain can do no damage either to its rational or to its social nature. In most cases of pain you should be helped too by the saying Epicurus: ‘Pain is neither unendurable nor unending, as long as your remember its limits and do not exaggerate it in your imagination.’ Remember too that many things we find disagreeable are the unrecognized analogues of pain – drowsiness, for example, oppressive heat, loss of appetite. So when you find yourself complaining of any of these, say to yourself, ‘You are giving into pain.’
You are strong enough to bear the pain
Be like the rocky headland on which the waves constantly break. It stands firm, and round the seething waters are laid to rest.
‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future.’ Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain.
All that happens is an event either within your natural ability to bear it, or not. So if it is an event within that ability, do not complain, but bear it as you were born to. If outside that ability, do not complain either: it will take you away before you have the chance for complaint. Remember, though, that you are by nature born to bear all that your own judgement can decide bearable, or tolerate in action, if you represent it to yourself as benefit or duty.
Follow your path
Judge yourself entitled to any word or action which is in accord with nature, and do not let any subsequent criticism or persuasion from anyone talk you out of it. No, if it was a good thing to do or say, do not revoke your entitlement. Those others are guided by their own minds and pursue their own impulses. Do not be distracted by any of this, but continue straight ahead, following your own nature and universal nature: these two have one and the same path.
Create your own luck
‘There was a time when I met luck at every turn.’ But luck is the good fortune you determine for yourself: and good fortune consists in good inclinations of the soul, good impulses, good actions.
Welcome all contingencies
The healthy eye must look at all there is to be seen, and not say ‘I only want pale colors’ – this is a symptom of disease. The healthy ear and nose muse be ready for all sounds or smells, and the healthy stomach must accept all food in the same way that a mill accepts all it was made to grind. And so the healthy mind too must be ready for all eventualities. The mind which says ‘my children must live’, or ‘there must be popular acclaim for all I do’, is the eye demanding pale or the teeth demanding pap.
Respect your opinion of yourself
I have often wondered how it is that everyone loves himself more than anyone else, but rates his own judgement of himself below that of others. Anyway, if a god or some wise tutor appeared at his side and told him to entertain no internal though or intention which he won’t immediately broadcast outside, he would not tolerate this regime for a single day. So it is that we have more respect for what our neighbors will think of us than we have for ourselves.
Inside Meditations, Marcus Aurelius muses over philosophies on how to live life to the fullest. It is a book worth reading and rereading over and over again. Do yourself a favor and pick it up sometime.