I’ve been devouring the writings of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 120-180), a practitioner of a practical philosophy called Stoicism. Ancient Stoics sought to accept the things that were given to them in life and to not be controlled by destructive emotions and difficult people. I’ve culled some astonishing wisdom from his diary, and even though it was written centuries ago, many points are immediately relevant and practical to our current human experience.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Emperor’s 2000 year-old manuscript.
- Be like the rock that waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the rage of the sea falls still around it.
- In a sense, people are our occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them.
- People try to get away from it all-to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish you could go too, which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like, by going within.
- No one can keep you from living in harmony with yourself.
- Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people – unless it affects the common good, it will keep you from doing anything useful.
- Chose not to be harmed- and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.
- Tranquility comes when you stop caring what they say or think or do.
- The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts. Color it with a run of thoughts like these:
- Anywhere you can lead your life, you can lead a good one.
- Things gravitate towards what they were intended for
- Nothing happens to anyone that they can’t endure.
Marcus Aurelius worked mightily to achieve a state of psychological stability and composure both outwardly and inwardly. Although none of us are responsible for leading a massive, complex empire like him, employing some of his day-to-day stoic methods in our own lives will help shield us from our own stressors while still allowing us to maintain an engaged and thoughtful life.