A Roman Emperors guide to handling life’s sh*t.
Life in 161 CE Rome was pretty tough, the Antonine plague would end up wiping out 5 million people, there was 40% chance you were a slave, you were almost at war and death was around every corner.
Marcus Aurelius, the last good Emporer, had a hell of a lot of mental fortitude because ruling an empire where this was most people’s reality was even tougher.
Despite being one of the most powerful and wealthy men of his time, he was a lonely guy; since he had few equals, he had to find guidance within himself.
Marcus created a collection of his beliefs and personal notes called “The Meditations,” these private journals would guide him through his darkest times and become one of the most well-known works of stoicism. Marcus never intended on anyone reading his notes; that’s why Meditations is the equivalent to walking through his mind-reading his pure authentic and raw thoughts.
His teachings empowered roman soldiers to battle through the hardships of life and war in the chaos of ancient roman times. For most of these soldiers, their lives were falling apart, but they kept themselves internally motivated and focused on their duties.
These journals reflected his beliefs on the betterment of society, humbleness and stoicism. Even 1800 years later, thousands continue to live by his lessons. Meditations were Marcus’s self council through adversity, and we need them now more than ever in the 21st century.
The Mind is our Cage🧠📦
Life is lived through our own heads. The quality of your life is dependant on the quality of your thoughts. No matter how good or bad the outside world is, the mind is where you analyze all the data you receive.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius
The distinction of what’s in your control and what’s not is beyond liberating. If you can’t change something, let it go. If you can, then do something about it. Don’t loathe around, go fix it. Your superpower is that your thoughts and actions are always in your control; the outside world isn’t. Make a list of things outside of your control and make a list of things inside your control. Be proactive about the things in your control and don’t be reactive about what’s not.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
We control how much power we give people and situations over us. In any situation, we actively decide how much value we assign to it. No matter what anyone says or does, they only harm us to the extent that we interpret them to.
Stuck in congested traffic? The guy behind you keeps honking as if it’s going to do anything. You keep checking the time shit your gonna be late to the meeting. You start stressing out and get frustrated watching the cars standstill. What good does your frustration do? Does the traffic all of a sudden go away? No, it only causes us to feel shitty; instead, realize that the traffic is outside of your control. You can’t do anything about it, but you get to decide how you react to it. You might as well make the best out of a bad situation. Turn on the radio and jam out.
“Every time we think a hateful thought we hurt ourselves.” -Marcus Aurelius
The longest and most important relationships we will ever have is with ourselves, not other people, So instead of worrying if other people like you, ask yourself “do I like me?”. Unless your negative thoughts are constructive and drive action, avoid them, because they only cloud our minds, reinforcing self-hatred. How can you expect to live a positive life with negative thoughts?
There are numerous studies that link negative thinking to both mental and physical pain.
If you don’t like someone, does investing emotional energy in hating them serve any purpose? What benefit would that have? It only occupies the mind with irrelevancies.
“It’s a really important practice to notice the stories that we tell ourselves.”- Marcus Aurelius
Happiness has a lot to do with the quality of our thoughts. Not how many blessings we have, but how often we count our blessing.
Why is it that there’s children living off a couple of cents a day who are full of joy, while there’s people with everything that feel empty?
Observe your thoughts as stories. Pay attention to who you’re painting the characters as and what the story revolves around.
No matter how good the outside world and your circumstances are, if you can’t fix the shit in your head, your outlook on life is the determinant of what you see. No event is bad or good in itself; it’s our interpretation of these events that create these labels. The exact same experiences can be beautiful or dreaded to different people.
Don’t dwell things outside of your control. Happiness is a choice we make internally, and it’s not dependant on the external world. Happiness isn’t found somewhere else in a better job, relationship or house; it’s found in the solitude of our own minds.
Life will suck -get over it
You can loath in self-pity or you can have a bias towards action.
Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough. Do not go on and say, “Why were things of this sort ever brought into this world?” — Marcus Aurelius
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. You can’t change facts, you can’t change other people, and you can’t change the past. If something bothers you, don’t self-victimize, either accept it or DO SOMETHING. You always have 3 choices: a) Complain b) Accept c)Change.
Don’t fear Death
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”- Marcus Aurelius
The majority of people fear death. But death is inevitable, it’s certain that we have a finite amount of heartbeats. Use it as motivation to get stuff done. Time is our most precious resource. Have urgency + focus.
Don’t waste time on irrelevancies. It’s not a coincidence when people find out they’re gonna die they cut out tv, fake relationships and bs. They say no to things that don’t matter because they know the true value of their time. Death is always near, so accept it and start living life like you could die at any moment. Ask your self: if I have a year to live would I be spending my time the way I spend it right now? If I were to die right now, would I be satisfied with my life?
Expect the Worst-Case Scenario
Instead of picturing the best-case scenario, picture the worst-case scenario.
“To expect bad men never to do bad things is insensate; it is hoping for the impossible. To tolerate their offences against others, and expect none against yourself, is both irrational and arbitrary.”- Marcus Aurelius
Force yourself to contemplate if the worst-case scenario played out, would you be able to endure it? If yes, then there’s nothing to be afraid about. This removes the possibility of disappointment in most situations because if you already have a predisposition to expect the worst outcome, the average outcome will be perceived as even more positive.
A lot of us are disappointed when our expectations don’t play out. People expecting to get an award, get upset when they don’t; they satisfy their craving when they do. People who don’t expect to get an award aren’t bothered when they don’t and are ecstatic when they do.
In nature, change is the only constant. There will be people coming in and out of your life, people will act badly, cheat and steal, don’t be surprised, but be prepared. There’s a strong line between goals, standards and expectations. Have high standards for your self, have big goals and hold yourself accountable but don’t expect others to. It’s not in your control.
Focus on your self
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy”- Marcus Aurliues
Social media has us conveniently tuned in to everyone’s online facades. It isn’t a surprise celebrity drama makes great headlines, because there’s a huge audience that feeds into it. People have become competitive and obsessed over other people’s life stats; how much money they make, their relationship statuses, their social followings. In reality, this stems from insecurity and envy.
So many people waste their time focusing on others, instead of themselves. The amount of people that care about the size of Kylie Jenner’s lips baffles me. Who cares what Carol had for lunch. Who cares if Jimmy is on vacation in the Bahamas?
Does what someone else is doing directly affect your life? Will you gain anything from being envious? Don’t waste your mental energy being concerned about what other people are doing. Get off social media for a week, unfollow people who don’ t add value to you.
There’s a good chunk of the world population that spends their day bitching about others. But what are these people doing for themselves? You will find most successful people are too busy building their own empire to worry about what bricks others are laying in theirs. Do the people dedicating hours hating on Elon musk have billion-dollar companies? No sweetheart.
Rather compete with your-self, be a better person every day. There will always be people richer, smarter and more attractive than you. But there’s only one you, and you’re going to have to live through this person for the rest of your life. Make sure they’re on their game.
Work for the Common Good🌎🤝
“In the first place: nothing at random, and nothing unrelated to some goal or end. Second, don’t relate your actions to anything except an end or goal which serves the human community.”
Do good out for the betterment of humanity expecting nothing in return. Humanity isn’t a zero-sum game, human creativity and hard work has compounded over thousands of years to create the world we live in today.
We constantly use the inventions, ideas and tools of those before us without giving it a second thought. Look around the room you’re in, people have dedicated their lives to creating these things you see. I’m grateful that people developed the sciences that shape my understandings, for the people who crafted the languages I speak, the people who made the laptop I’m typing this on, the philosophers that guide my decisions. Dedicate your time to building something beyond yourself, to be a part of the collective good and push humanity forward.
Do good and act virtuously for the advancement of mankind, without expecting anything in return or seeking validation.
Have Pure judgement🧠
“We don’t just witness events, we automatically create stories about them.”
Examine how you formed your beliefs, why do you act and think the way that you do? Why does X trigger Y thought or emotion in you? Find the root causes of your actions, they often tell us a lot about ourselves and expose our underlying biases.
“Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.”
Look at the world the way it is, don’t ignore what you don’t like. Question everything. Don’t settle for comfortable answers, seek the uncomfortable truth because ignorance and self-deception have never pushed society forward. Have the humility and courage to be open to change your perspective, only then can you escape the bubble of delusion.
Understand others and uncover the reasoning behind their actions. If someones constantly talking negatively about others it likely is a reflection of how they feel about themselves.
It’s going to be uncomfortable asking yourself these types of questions but it will help you uncover areas for growth; from there you can create systems to target the core problems, targeting your identity. This will allow you to live a well-guided life.
- Meditations are famous works from Stoicism.
- You always control your actions and thoughts.
- Negative thoughts → Negative outlook → Negative life
- Death is always near, spend your time like it.
- Question the reasoning behind your thoughts and actions
- Advance Humanity out of good faith
- Focus on your growth rather than others
Now go and rule the empire that is your mind💭🧠