The below quotes come from Book Three and Book Four of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. A cornerstone of the Stoic philosophy, Meditations is a book I highly recommend anyone to read to prepare for life’s inevitable challenges and adversities. If you’d like to read a quick summary of the book, you can check out my Actionable Book Summary of Meditations here.
On pursuing the highest values in life…
If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage – than a mind satisfied that it has succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what’s beyond its control – if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations – it must be an extraordinary thing indeed – and enjoy it to the full.
Justice, honesty, self-control, and courage. Can there be anything of higher value to pursue in life?
On constantly watching your thoughts…
You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are you thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that. And it would be obvious at once from your answer that your thoughts were straightforward and considerate ones.
You become what you think. So make sure that you’re monitoring your thoughts just as closely as you’re monitoring your actions. Don’t overthink or worry either. Simple is better.
On not letting others dictate your worth…
It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness – as a rational being and a citizen. Anything at all: the applause of the crowd, high office, wealth, or self-indulgence. All of them might seem to be compatible with it – for a while. But suddenly they control us and sweep us away.
Humility. And keeping in mind what’s most important. Achieving goodness for oneself and others.
On being transparent and open with your thoughts and actions…
Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.
A good measuring stick on whether an action you’re about to take is wrong is when you feel a sense of shame or have to do it “behind closed doors”.
On being a good man…
…And then you might see what the life of the good man is like – someone content with what nature assigns him, and satisfied with being just and kind himself.
Be content with what nature assigns you. Things happen. The least you can do is be just and kind to yourself and others.
For those curious about which translation of Meditations to get, I highly recommend the Gregory Hays’ translation as it is translated in a way that most of us, modern readers, can easily understand. But, you can’t go wrong with any of them out there because, well, wisdom is still wisdom.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.