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Wise words from a Roman emperor still helpful today

The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from 161-180 AD. A prolific journal writer, his private reflections were captured in the book Meditations.


Through his reflective practice, Marcus captured a series of reminders designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever he was dealing with.


The Daily Stoic shares a useful summary of his work and some of Marcus Aurelius's best quotes on their website (visit: www.dailystoic.com). Three key takeaway lessons from Meditations they highlight are:


1. Our minds have great power.

  • We can choose how we perceive events and we can always choose to be virtuous.

  • If we practice, we can instantly erase any bad impressions from our mind.

  • We are completely in control of our thoughts and actions.

  • Remember the two quotes:

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”


“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”


2. People will always do awful (or at least unpleasant) things and we are only responsible our own virtue.

  • We can choose to be good even when we are surrounded by wrong.

  • When another harms us, we can react with kindness, advising them of their errors if possible but being okay with it if they ignore this advice.

  • When another angers us, we must immediately consider their point of view, remember that we have our own faults, and respond with positivity and indifference to any supposed harm done to us.


3. Life is short.

  • We shall soon be replaced, and we ought not waste our lives being distressed.

  • We should focus on doing good for the others with the unknowable amount of time we have left to live.

  • To make this a part of our lives we must reflect regularly on the fact that we will die.

  • This can result in some of the deepest understandings available to humans, therefore death should be confronted no matter how unpleasant it may be to think about.

  • We should reflect on all the people that have come before us, what is left of them now, and what will later be left of us.


In addition, a top 10 of Marcus Aurelius quotes from Meditations for your own reflections and inspiration...


“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”


“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.”


“The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”


“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-centered, 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.”


“We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”


“Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human - however imperfectly - and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.”


“How easy it is to repel and to wipe away every impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquility.”


“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”


“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do…Sanity means tying it to your own actions.”


“Discard your misperceptions. Stop being jerked like a puppet. Limit yourself to the present.”


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