Have you ever wanted to have dinner with a Roman Emperor?
Get a peek at their wisdom, perspective, leadership, and life lessons in conversation? After all, they were leaders of one of the greatest civilizations on earth.
If you didn’t want to before, you’re probably thinking of it now. How cool would that be?
But unless you’re going to talk to the ghost of the great Marcus Aurelius in a seance, his book, Meditations, will have to do. It’s only one of the greatest and original books written in history.
You don’t read it once and let it dust; you treat it like your bible for practical wisdom on life. Because that’s what it is.
The emperor (161 – 180 AD) and stoic philosopher wrote Meditations during his 19-year reign. He treated it like a journal: a source of psychological advice for himself.
The book was never meant for publication, which is why it offers such a genuine, raw glimpse inside his brilliant mind.
“He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety, and loss,” writes Donald Robertson of the Guardian.
By reading his record of thoughts and lessons, we could add a little brilliance to ourselves. Such is the case for any book, really.
Mediation served as a guide for Marcus in understanding and encouraging himself during times of uncertainty and challenge.
Read by millions over centuries
For centuries, Aurelius’s Meditations has been burning the midnight oil for intellectuals, politicians, entrepreneurs, and avid learners alike. If you choose to read it, you’re in good company.
You can overcome many of life’s challenges with Marcus’ wisdom. He discusses life and logic, meaning and purpose, work, mortality, self-discipline, and the shortness of life.
We are here for only a short while, and making the most of our time can change our lives dramatically.
Meditations is the personal notes of a philosopher and an emperor encouraging himself to get his acts together.
I find it profoundly practical and personal. “They have become one of the most influential philosophy books in the history of the world,” says Ryan Holiday.
Timeless Life Lessons
As mentioned above, Marcus Aurelius left dozens of little thoughts and bite-sized lessons in his “journal.” Many of them are widely backed and reinforced by philosophers, psychologists, and successful leaders today, too.
Before we get into some of the takeaways, there’s one particular philosophy that inherently causes a paradox in his understanding of life: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.” If this is true, then that statement, in and of itself, is no more than an opinion that we may agree or disagree with.
Keep that thought structure in mind as you read the following tips too. You don’t have to agree with everything, but this is what worked for the emperor–do with that what you will.
Worry about yourself and yourself only.
Marcus believes that focusing too much on what others think of you is wasteful. He writes, “it never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people but care more about their opinion than our own.”
By obsessing over what other people are doing, thinking, or saying, you divert your mental energy and focus on the wrong things, succumbing to insecurity.
Marcus stresses the importance of acknowledging his own shortcomings and working to fix those before criticizing.
Live in the moment.
“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 said.
As a citizen on a finite planet with a rapidly changing society, Marcus thought the best thing to do was take advantage of the limited time you have here.
As he lived his life, he encouraged himself to cherish every second, as if that day was his last on earth. By doing so, he could enjoy the present and reject the perhaps painful past and future. Marcus said, “Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.”
He famously wrote, “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.”
Relieve yourself from the illusion of pain.
In his view, circumstances within and beyond your control can change the way you perceive life and the way you live it.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” He said.
If we were to point this to an example, let’s say your partner cheated on you. Now, if you really think about it objectively, your partner is simply another human being who decided to have sex with another human being on planet earth. It is merely something that happened.
The pain you feel, be it betrayal, embarrassment, anger, was not created by the cheating action itself. It was your reaction to it. By thinking this way, you can develop a sense of control over your feelings and revoke the pain. That’s the idea, anyway.
Don’t be afraid of your truth–even if it’s radically different.
A study of the 12 books of the Meditations is a powerful source of inspiration, enlightenment, and encouragement for living a better life. To live a good life, Marcus says, “dig within.” “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” He wrote.
You are shaped and influenced more powerfully than you realize by your existing beliefs about what it means to live a good life. But Marcus views everything we see as a perspective, not as the whole or objective truth.
So, you should start with what you consider the only truth and challenge that. “For every action, ask: How does it affect me? Could I change my mind about it?” Marcus wrote. “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
You can turn your life around by accepting a new or better way of thinking. Seek guidance from wise, highly effective, rational, and intelligent people. Everything you need to improve your life is within your control when you know where to look and how to think.
If you want a life compass to drive you to success, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a must-have. We merely touched the tip of the iceberg with the above-listed information.
If any of these thought structures seem odd or irrational to you, have the openmindedness to realize that leaders didn’t get where they are by following the path of the 99%.
A successful lifestyle requires a different path. The road less taken.