5 Marcus Aurelius Quotes You Should Reflect on Daily
Marcus Aurelius ( A.D. 121–180) was one of the greatest Roman Emperors that ever lived. He succeeded his adoptive father in A.D. 161. His untitled work of philosophical teachings, now known as Meditations, is often looked at as one of the greatest pieces of philosophical writings ever created.
He was a practitioner of the Stoic philosophy — commonly thought to be those that lack emotion, or showing the expression of them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It was rather the full observation of thoughts, events and how we react to them that matters.
It’s wholehearted mindfulness — not standing there looking like we don’t give a shit.
It seems that this was not written as book, but as a compilation of reflections and advice that he himself could use in the future. As he experienced something, he would observe the situation objectively and rationally, and write down his thoughts. Over time particular lessons and perspectives were formed.
Meditations simply a collection of translated thoughts Marcus wrote for himself.
Just think about that for a moment — One of the greatest emperors in the existence of our planet has his advice, opinions, and ideas, passed down through the generations to this very moment. We still have them at our fingertips.
These quotes come from the Gregory Hayes translation of Meditations. They run through my head often, and have served me well in times of stress. In today’s post, I break down my favourite quotes and my own perspectives of them.
You’ll find that the beauty and power lies within their simplicity.
1. It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.
Know your faults, bring awareness to them, and focus on bettering yourself. This is all that you can control. Lead through your action, not words. Put your skin in the game. Don’t just sit there and judge others. Don’t gossip. It’s not beneficial for your mind or soul. It’s wasted, and useless energy. You’ll be forever angry, emotional, and frustrated trying to change the behaviour of someone else, and how they live their life.
Living in accordance with your identity, values and beliefs is where to start. From here, all you can do is focus on bettering yourself, and managing your perspective. Want to influence someone? Then be kind, listen to them, and show that you care. Make them feel understood. Realize that even then, their perspective is out of your control.
2. If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
I tend to think that by opening up my mind, looking at the bigger picture, seeing things from the perspective of others, is of much more value than resisting, arguing, and fighting. Even as I write these words, this is only my perspective and opinion, influenced by the words of Marcus, and everything I currently believe and have experienced up to this point.
Am I one hundred percent correct in my beliefs? Prove to me I’m not and I will consider adjusting. This means that there is a place for debate and constructive criticism, as long as long as both parties understand to not take anything personally (an extremely difficult skill). I’m not here to harm anyone, and just as importantly, not to harm myself. I’m after the truth.
3. I was once a fortunate man but at some point fortune abandoned me. But true good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions.
Chasing riches without coming back to your roots is a surefire way to become angry, depressed, and yeah, probably lose a few friends along the way if you aren’t careful.
In reality, what really matters? Family. Health. Safety. Education. Your brand new Mercedes AMG with 20 inch rims? Nobody really cares. Hey, I love cars. I dream of owning a Porsche one day. I’m not better than you. Just as long as you really care for family, friends, your health, and show compassion to those you come into contact with— all is good.
Just ask yourself honestly if that prized material possession where taken away from you, could you still be happy? We don’t need more things. We need more self-compassion, connection, and experiences.
4. Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.
It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise, it cannot harm you — inside or out.
Okay, so this is really two separate quotes but I believe they fit together nicely. Our emotional reaction to external events ultimately comes down to our perspective and interpretation of the event itself.
Make a choice. Choose the high road. Don’t let the negativity affect you as a human being. You are so much more than a trivial problem, or a fault in someone you cannot control. Especially if that issue already happened. You can’t change the past. It’s gone forever.
Now welcome whatever feeling it is that you have, and only associate with the thoughts that will make you happy, and benefit yourself as a whole.
5. Concentrate every minute like a Roman — like a man — on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions.
Yes, you can — if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centred , irritable.
You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.
This was the piece that I framed and hung up in my bedroom. I look to it often. Everything that I ever did before this, I hadn’t realized how absent I had been from my tasks. My mind would wander and I constantly thought about the future. Doing this, I always looked back on the tasks I completed and viewed them as inadequate. I never thought I did a good enough job. I never felt like there was purpose or meaning in my work.
It’s easy to look for external gratification, looking for rewards not from within, but without. Thinking this way caused me to be pulled in so many different directions at once.
Many tasks in our life can feel trivial, but if we pour our heart and soul into everything we do, and bleed authenticity — we have done our best. It’s in these moments, and the reflection afterwards that we feel satisfied, and appreciate our work.
The only thing that we have is our perception and thought of an event. The event itself is good nor bad. The event is just the event. What matters is how we interpret the event.
Stop being aimless — Trying to go everywhere at once gets you nowhere. Pick one goal and pursue it with undeterred focus and passion.
Stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you — You don’t need junk food to fill a void of unhappiness. The happiness is there. Let’s just try to find it.
Stop being hypocritical — Do your goals align with your identity and values? If not, when you act out of accordance, don’t complain when you do not reach your goals. There was simply a misalignment.
Stop being self-centred — Be the change you want to see in the world. Help yourself by working your ass off now so you can help others and the world around you.
Stop being irritable — Relax. Seriously. Take a breath deep within your belly and back, then exhale slowly. You’ll look back on this and realize it was wasted time. Don’t give it the time of day.
Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.