“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” ―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Marcus Aurelius Augustus was the emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 AD, and one of the important stoic philosophers.
Marcus Aurelius wrote the famous work Meditations in Greek. Meditations is widely regarded as an exceptional work on Stoicism, a philosophy that incorporates virtue, reason and self-restraint and teaches that errors in judgment cause emotions that are unfavorable.
Aurelius is originally known to have written Meditations for his own reflection and guidance and called it “thoughts addressed to myself.” This was later renamed as Meditations.
Here are 16 ideas and several quotes from the masterpiece:
1. Your Thoughts Are Powerful And Your Happiness Depends On Them
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notion unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I think that this is a great reminder that thoughts can make or break your day based on where you allow them to go in your mind.
While it is impossible to filter or restrict every thought that comes your way, you have the power to become aware of your dominant thought processes and bolster the ones that support your progress.
There are many destructive thoughts and judgments that take away from the beauty and joy of life and it is best to replace them with more empowering ones.
“No man is happy who does not think himself so.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Take the time to think power thoughts today that propel you forward towards your goals.
2. When your thinking is spiraling down into self-pity and depression, stop the spiral and do something that makes you feel better.
3. Let go of the sticky thoughts that do not serve you.
2. Happiness Comes From Taking Radical Self-responsibility And Jumping Into Action
“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This is a thought provoking idea from the Emperor and tells you how you can be truly happy.
People who are constantly looking for approval and popularity are inextricably fused with others for their happiness. When the external stimulus or the “likes” are gone, their happiness evaporates into thin air.
If pleasure seeking is the only goal, yet again the locus of control and power goes to external dependency and will fluctuate depending on the weather or the mood around.
However, true wisdom and happiness is taking action by your own free will on things that most matter to you.
You make a small but impactful dent in your universe by taking meaningful action and not worrying about external opinions and moods.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Find Your Strength Within Your Realm Of Control And Influence and not events that are outside. If you need strength then look inside and see that you have the power and control over your mind and your actions.
1. Action is the greatest and the most effective tool at your disposal.
2. Understand what you can control and what you cannot. Work within your realm of control and influence.
3. Do not distract yourself with things that are beyond your control.
3. The Power and Value of Living Your Excellence Now And Where Is Your Attention At?
“Do every act of your life as if it were your last.”-Marcus Aurelius
“No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The current moment is all we really have to make an impact in our life and the lives of others. If your attention is engaged in what happened in the past or what might happen in the future, you lose out on the precious present moments.
The choice is to engage the present moment with what you truly desire and make it as meaningful and memorable as possible instead of dwelling in the past or the future.
As you practice to gently bring your attention back to this moment, life becomes very vibrant.
“What we do now echoes in eternity.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
What you did in the past created your present and what you choose to do right now will create your future and echoes and ripples in the sands of time.
When you remember that every day is unique and brings gifts and adventures, you are excited to meet it as a process of discovery.
If you look at a new day as being dreadful, then you cut yourself off from the wellspring of enthusiasm and opportunity.
Each day provides its own gifts. – Marcus Aurelius
1. Bring your attention back to the current moment and gently repeat it till it becomes a habit.
2. Choose to look at the new moment and the new day as a great present. Embrace it!
3. You have the power to rewrite your story beginning right now. Take a small step towards your great future!
4. Be Prepared For Any Outcome and Act with resilience
“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The secret of great success is resilience in the face of adversity and setbacks. It is interesting that people who thrive and flourish in their lives see adversity differently and more importantly they are prepared for any outcome.
For them, life is about making adjustments as setbacks happen and see the bright side of what is going wrong.
When you do not allow failure to stop you, you are able to take small steps and move forward regardless of your fears and resistance.
Look at life through the favorable lens of perspective and the moving continuum of time.
As Marcus Aurelius so correctly points out that the current of time is strong and this too shall pass.
The lesson that I have learned from his teachings is to celebrate the current moment and learn from adversity and know that nothing lasts forever.
Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Refocus and look at adversity through the lens of opportunity and learning.
2. Setbacks and failures need to be welcomed and overcome.
3. Remember that failures and setbacks develop your resilience. Deal favorably with them by taking action on correcting your course after receiving feedback. Realign your focus and try new things to get different results.
5. Do Not Allow The Cloud Of Judgment And Perception To Sway You
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
How many times do we maintain our positions and opinions as truth and do not allow fresh new ideas and viewpoints to even take root in our consciousness because we are stuck in our beliefs and ideas?
As Aurelius points out that everything is a perspective and opinion.
I learnt that when I make small adjustments to my perspective and allow fresh new ideas to come in, my life gets very enriched.
When you are armed with the knowledge that perspectives and opinions can be altered and looked at differently, you give yourself the freedom to make changes.
Little changes in opinion and thoughts and actions make all the big changes that you see over time.
And if you choose not to change anything, things will remain the same and you will not benefit from the broadening of horizons.
“Life is opinion.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Do not tunnel vision your choices by pre-deciding something based on your beliefs.
2. Get several ideas and opinions on the table and then look at the cost vs. benefit of them all to make an informed choice.
3. Broaden your horizons by constantly learning and meeting new people.
6. Discovering Your True Inner Power
“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.”- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Many times, we look for the good and the joyous and the happy out there but there is none to be found.
You may have heard that we reflect back on to the world an inner image of how we feel and think. If you are feeling irritated and angry, the world appears annoying and hostile.
If you go deep within and look for your deepest inner core of silence and peace and if you take the time to access the space regularly, you will see that what you have been looking for outside is within you.
When you take the time to access your inner strength by reflection and asking who you are, you will be able to find beyond the chaos of thoughts and beliefs is an oasis of untouchable love and joy.
The ancients including Aurelius have always maintained this and I think that it is a wonderful life lesson.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” – Marcus Aurelius
1. Schedule some “me” time for inner reflection and searching.
2. Ask the “why” question to receive answers.
3. Look within for strength and relief and not outside. Sit in silence and meditation even if it is for 5 minutes a day.
7. DO Something Productive With Your Anger
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
When you get very angry and lash out, it is already too late because you have set in motion events that end up causing you regret and sadness later on.
However, the best time to reflect upon our anger and rage is when we are not angry. By allowing yourself the consciousness and awareness of what anger can do in your life, you prime your mind and feelings to be able to choose a gentler path when you get angry.
By all means feel anger, but instead of lashing out, leverage the energy and power of anger to make something productive and creative for others and for yourself. Channel your anger into productive and creative pursuits.
1. When you get angry, instead of lashing out, think how you can use the anger more productively.
2. Ask: what is this angry person trying to teach me? How can I address this anger and provide some relief and calm?
3. Use the energy and strong emotions generated by anger to take creative action towards your big project to give great value to you and to others.
8. Being Insanely Grateful for what you have
“Take full account of what Excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Many times we forget all the amazing things and people in our lives and exclusively focus on what we do not have.
Marcus Aurelius wisely says that you should place yourself in the position of not taking for granted all the great people and situations that you have in your life.
If you did not have them in your life, how would your life be different and how you would crave to have them in your life? This is a simple but highly effective practice to feel a deep level of gratitude for everything this is going right in your life.
We forget the simple pleasures in life such as being alive, close family and friends, the ability to love and enjoy by being excessively focused on what we do not have and what is going wrong.
Counting your blessings and appreciating what you have makes you feel great and increases the levels of happiness.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Feel insane and deep heartfelt gratitude for everything that is a blessing in your life.
2. Feel how lucky you are to have a warm bed and food to eat and great people in your life. Say “thank you” to them more often.
3. Live life as if everything is a great blessing.
9. What Others Think Of You Is None Of Your Business And Be Prepared To Deal With Difficult People
“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This is wonderful advice from Aurelius because so many of us get bogged down by making assumptions about what others are thinking and saying about us and quit.
It is true that if you allow the thoughts of being over concerned with the opinions of others, you may end up not accomplishing much in your life because you are always taking evasive action to correct the perceived limitations that others place on you.
In other words, you attempt to people please and appear in a certain way to fit in.
Aurelius suggests that instead of being concerned about what others think over which you have no control, be concerned about what you can control such as your behavior, words and actions.
I love this advice because it brings the locus of control and the power to make a change right back into our lives. By choosing to act, speak and behave in a certain manner, we can be role models of how we want others to behave with us.
“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
If you make peace with the idea that meeting difficult people and events is inevitable, you are free to move ahead in your life without hesitation or resistance because you have already developed an awareness of anything is possible.
When you resolve to deal with difficult people by choosing to learn from them and not allowing them to upset you, you become a role model for others to follow and emulate.
1. Make no assumptions about others and what they are thinking about you.
2. Take action to become a role model instead of worrying about what people will think about you.
3. Love yourself and approve of yourself and the world will reflect that truth back to you.
10. Your Job Is To Find Your Purpose
“Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created?”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Asking why you are here is a deceptively simple and yet highly profound question to ask yourself. Embrace your strengths, interests and passions and go for the best that you can do.
It is best to remember that the goal is not comparison with others or even feeling bad that you did not yet find your dharma or purpose. The goal is to jump right in with your strengths and skills and fill the small holes or put out the small fires in your life.
What skills are you good at?
What are your strengths and your weaknesses?
Are you feeling great joy and happiness in doing what you are doing in your life or do you need to find something that excites you more?
1. Make a list of your strengths and your skills and passions.
2. How can you give and receive great value from your work?
3. What makes you really happy and engages your attention? Begin following that even as a part time thing.
11. Realize That You Will Fail And Getting Beyond Difficulties By Becoming Brighter
“The blazing fire makes flames and brightness out of everything thrown into it.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I love the idea from Marcus Aurelius that you can become brighter and radiant by the trials and the experiences of your life. Instead of choosing to get crushed by adversity and uncertainty, the choice is upon you to rise up to the challenge.
Accessing personal power and choosing to be strong by modulating one’s own set of beliefs and behaviors have always been the strong points of the stoic philosophers who rank accountability and personal responsibility high on the list to follow.
Are you being like the unyielding cliff in your life?
“Be like the cliff against which the waves continually break; but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.”
“Thou must be like a promontory of the sea, against which though the waves beat continually, yet it both itself stands, and about it are those swelling waves stilled and quieted.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Decide to become brighter and stronger as you go through difficulties.
2. Persevere and have the attitude of not giving up easily.
3. Develop the resilience and flexibility to go through the course even if you are experiencing setbacks.
4. Look at failures as something adventurous that you need to overcome and not as a finality.
12. On Flow And Everything Will Eventually Turn Out As It should
“Everything that happens, happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.”― Marcus Aurelius
When you let go of the expectations that you hold on too tightly and trust and believe that everything turns out for the best, you can breathe a sigh of relief and take action towards excellence in your life.
This is indeed the case in the natural world where things just happen and too much effort is not expended wishing that the sun did rise today or hoping that the flower will bloom in a timely manner.
There is a certain elegance and a simple letting things be and allowing that is the hallmark of nature and we would benefit greatly from that idea.
If something does not turn out as planned, sometimes it is not meant to be in that particular order and this understanding gives great relief and comfort to us in difficult times.
1. Do not grasp on outcomes too strongly.
2. Trust and believe that things will work out for the best.
3. Do your very best with the knowledge and wisdom and understanding that you have and develop some more as you go along. This idea is from the amazing Louise L. Hay!
13. How To Find Lasting Inner Peace
“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This is truly wonderful advice from Marcus Aurelius. The realization that anxiety and stress are states within our own perceptions and thoughts gives us control over our situation.
Instead of just going along for the stress ride, you have the power within your control to turn the noise of stress down a little bit.
You may be giving anxiety immense power by choosing to believe that you cannot make a difference.
But the truth is that even the simple act of deep breathing for a few minutes with your focus on your breath gives you alleviation from anxiety and stress.
“When thou hast been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery over the harmony by continually recurring to it. ” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Aurelius believed and wrote that your judgments and perception of events and people are the reasons why you are pained by them.
He also wrote that when you are compelled to be stressed and anxious, return to center by accessing harmony and make this practice habitual.
Modern psychology research has indeed demonstrated that the conscious brain is unable to process more than 100 bits of information per second. This is the reason why a blissful thought and feeling and a stressful thought cannot survive together. One has to be let go of and disallowed.
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
1. Change the war you look at anxiety and stress.
2. Become aware of the what, when, how and where of stress in your life.
3. Replace stress with stress free relaxation techniques and activities.
4. Remember that stress is a choice that you have made habitual. You can choose to not get as stressed out .
14. Live As Every Day Is Your Last
“Not as though thou hadst thousands of years to live. Death hangs over thee: whilst yet thou livest, whilst thou mayest, be good.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Yet another great point by the Emperor! If we can live everyday like it is our last, we get to the important things right away without any waste of time.
Most people forget their own mortality and act and behave as if they will live forever and suspend their dreams and wishes for later.
This is a wake up call from the Emperor that we need to claim our most excellent life right now while we are still alive.
1. Do not take time, people and opportunities for granted.
2. Jump at the first chance of a great opportunity.
3. You should feel some fear and lots of excitement as you do things that are slightly beyond your zone of comfort.
15. You Can Benefit Greatly By Truly Observing
“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
When you truly observe your surroundings with a beginners mind, you begin to look at everything from a different perspective. If you look at your world like it is a bother, that is what will be reflected back to you.
If you look at the world as an opportunity, that is precisely what you will see.
If you look at a problem with the intention of solving it and making the lives of others better, you get solution-oriented answers.
1. Stop overthinking and glossing over things and take a moment to absorb in the beauty and joy of the moment.
2. Ask the right questions and you will receive the right answers. Ask how can I make things better or how can I make this less annoying for myself and to others. In other words, how can I solve this and create value.
16. Remember That Everything Has Value And Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
“This also thou must observe, that whatsoever it is that naturally doth happen to things natural, hath somewhat in itself that is pleasing and delightful: as a great loaf when it is baked, some parts of it cleave as it were, and part asunder, and make the crust of it rugged and unequal. So figs are accounted fairest and ripest then, when they begin to shrink, and wither as it were. The hanging down of grapes—the brow of a lion, the froth of a foaming wild boar, and many other like things, though by themselves considered, they are far from any beauty, yet because they happen naturally, they both are comely, and delightful.”- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
People have a tendency to dismiss and devalue someone or something that does not seem to be of any immediate value to them or their goals.
But appearances can be deceptive. In hindsight, you may see that there are great lessons that can be learned from people or events that do not appear as valuable.
You may form opinions and judgments about others or events based on how they look like and when you limit your opportunity by not allowing input from different sources, you are limiting your excellence.
1. Do not dismiss things because they do not match the description of what you consider to be the standard.
2. Remember that beauty and usefulness are in the eyes of the beholder and just because you do not see any value right now does not mean that there is none available.
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below if this post resonated with you. Which tip is your favorite one and why?
Photo Credit: “Marcus-Aurelius” by Sébastien Bertrand via Flickr CC
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