Timeless Life Lessons from Marcus Aurelius

The first time I heard name Marcus Aurelius while watching movie called Gladiator. With the title “Roman Emperor,” you might think life would have been easy for Marcus Aurelius, but it wasn’t. Within the first year of his reign, one of Rome’s client states, Armenia, was seized by their common enemy, the Parthians. War ensued to reclaim Armenia as Aurelius faced other difficulties in the Empire, including chronic physical pains, but through Stoic training, Marcus Aurelius was able to master his perceptions and see each obstacle as an opportunity to improve.

Marcus Aurelius knew that he couldn’t control all that happened to him, but he could control how he responded. Well, that sounds a lot like stoicism, doesn’t it? The aim of this article is to give you a few key set of ideas that might make you think a bit deeper on what you want to do in your life and give you a sense of control and direction.

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1. Stop Stressing Other People

“Don’t pay attention to other people’s minds. Look straight ahead, where nature is leading you nature in general, through the things that happen to you; and your own nature, through your own actions.”

2. Don’t Fall Prey to Envy

“Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them.”

3. Accept Life’s Changes

“Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the fire-wood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you and just as vital to nature.”

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4. Need Help? That’s Okay

“Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?”

5. Forgive People (Because Life is Short)

“To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long.”

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6. Put the Self in the Proper Place

“Look at the past empire succeeding empire and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm of events. Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?”

7. Strive to live a Moral Life

“Wash yourself clean. With simplicity, with indifference to everything but right and wrong. Care for other human beings. Follow God.”

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