He was the Emperor of Rome in the years 161 to 180. While he waged wars, Marcus Aurelius is best remembered for his philosophy on how to live a meaningful life.
His advice, over 2,000 years old, is worth contemplating.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.
Many of us have rambling thoughts which make little sense. Our chaotic, hectic lives produce a never-ending stream of random ideas. We relive past conversations, think about the things we don’t have, and worry about almost everything. The great challenge we all face is to control our thoughts. Write down the things you’d rather be thinking about – your life goals, and read that list often.
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly.”
If we died this summer but were given a second chance to live again, would we do things differently in the fall? What would be our priorities on the second time around? See yourself as gone, then starting a new life. Wow. Things look different already, don’t they?
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
How will we face the uncertainty of tomorrow? What new skills will we need? Likely, says Aurelius, we’ll meet future challenges with the same tenacity and innovation we embody today. Commit to a life of determination right now, and you’re all set for tomorrow.
“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”
Time is finite and we’re living on the clock. It’s best therefore to engage in activities, goals, jobs and careers that we know we can do – things we’re good at. That’s how we’ll make the most difference. Use your strengths, not your weaknesses.
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Most of us work hard. Probably too hard. In fact, the obsession with productivity makes us forget about what a miracle it is to be alive in the first place. Be quiet. Feel that? It’s the miracle of your heartbeat. We are in such a rush to get things done, we forget how incredible it feels to be alive. Appreciate life.
“We care about ourselves more than other people, but we care more about their opinion than our own.”
People love to judge, criticize, and tell us what we should or should not do. But it’s not their life. It’s ours. It’s our mistakes, our decisions or lack thereof and our path. Obtain feedback, yes – but in the end, you have the last word on you.
Marcus Aurelius was ahead of his time. He believed that everything which today is labelled a “fact” is, in fact, an “opinion” that may be proven as false in the future. He asked that we put more faith in ourselves than in the outside world.
Aurelius compiled his philosophies and lessons learned in an ancient manuscript called “The Meditations” which brings comfort to today’s chaotic and nervous world.