From the author of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, also called the last of the so-called “five good emperors.”, comes a great deal of inspiration, wisdom and guidance for all areas of our lives.
His words have lived on for almost 2000 years and for sure they will live on for another 2000 more. Without further ado, here are the 33 life-changing lessons to learn from Marcus Aurelius.
33 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from the Inspiring Marcus Aurelius
1. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”~ Marcus Aurelius
2. You have power over your mind – not outside events.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”~ Marcus Aurelius
3. Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”~ Marcus Aurelius
4. Why does man value less his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others?
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”~ Marcus Aurelius
5. If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change for I seek the truth.
“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”
6. “The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”~ Marcus Aurelius
7. Today I escaped from the crush of my own assumptions.
“Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.”~Marcus Aurelius
8. What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”~Marcus Aurelius
9. How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”~ Marcus Aurelius
10. The object of life is to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
11. “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”~ Marcus Aurelius
12. You have the power to revoke your pain at any moment.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
13. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower.
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.
They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness.
Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”~ Marcus Aurelius
14. Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with whom fate brings you together.
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”~ Marcus Aurelius
15. Into thyself there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”~ Marcus Aurelius
16. Never let the future disturb you.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”~ Marcus Aurelius
17. There is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.
“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.”~ Marcus Aurelius
18. What a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”~ Marcus Aurelius
19. You always own the option of having no opinion
“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”~ Marcus Aurelius
20. Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly.
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”~ Marcus Aurelius
21. Brief is man’s life and small the nook of the earth where he lives.
“Casting aside other things, hold to the precious few; and besides bear in mind that every man lives only the present, which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is either past or is uncertain.
Brief is man’s life and small the nook of the earth where he lives; brief, too, is the longest posthumous fame, buoyed only by a succession of poor human beings who will very soon die and who know little of themselves, much less of someone who died long ago.”~ Marcus Aurelius
22. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for ?
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”~ Marcus Aurelius
23. Humans have come into being for the sake of each other.
“Humans have come into being for the sake of each other, so either teach them, or learn to bear them.”~ Marcus Aurelius
24. Now that you realize that only dreams were troubling you, view this ‘reality’ as you view your dreams.
“Regain your senses, call yourself back, and once again wake up. Now that you realize that only dreams were troubling you, view this ‘reality’ as you view your dreams.”~ Marcus Aurelius
25. Everything is the result of change.
“Observe always that everything is the result of change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and make new ones like them.”~ Marcus Aurelius
26. Anything that distracts you from fidelity to the ruler within you—means a loss of opportunity for some other task.
“Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit. To wonder what so-and-so is doing and why, or what he is saying, or thinking, or scheming—in a word, anything that distracts you from fidelity to the ruler within you—means a loss of opportunity for some other task.”~ Marcus Aurelius
27. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content.
“Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.”~ Marcus Aurelius
28. “A man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.”~ Marcus Aurelius
29. Pain is either an evil to the body (then let the body say what it thinks of it!)-or to the soul.
“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?” neither intolerable nor everlasting – if thou bearest in mind that it has its limits, and if thou addest nothing to it in imagination. Pain is either an evil to the body (then let the body say what it thinks of it!)-or to the soul. But it is in the power of the soul to maintain its own serenity and tranquility. . . .”~ Marcus Aurelius
30. Take full account of what Excellencies you possess.
“Take full account of what Excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.”~ Marcus Aurelius
31. It is not the future or what has passed that afflicts you, but always the present.
“Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: ‘What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?’
You would be ashamed to confess it! And then remind yourself that it is not the future or what has passed that afflicts you, but always the present, and the power of this is much diminished if you take it in isolation and call your mind to task if it thinks that it cannot stand up to it when taken on its own.”~ Marcus Aurelius
32. True good fortune is what you make for yourself.
“I was once a fortunate man but at some point fortune abandoned me. But true good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions.”~ Marcus Aurelius
33. Understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone.
“Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realise the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.”~ Marcus Aurelius
And these are the 33 life-changing lessons to learn from the inspiring Marcus Aurelius. I hope these lessons will inspire you to look for more meaning in life, to live consciously and responsibly in the present moment as that is all we will ever have.
“Unhappy am I because this has happened to me.- Not so, but happy am I, though this has happened to me, because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearing the future.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?”
“In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his sense a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, his fame doubtful. In short, all that is body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“How unlucky I am that this should happen to me. But not at all. Perhaps, say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened, and I am not afraid of what is about to happen. For the same blow might have stricken anyone, but not many would have absorbed it without capitulation and complaint.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“So you know how things stand. Now forget what they think of you. Be satisfied if you can live the rest of your life, however short, as your nature demands. Focus on that, and don’t let anything distract you. You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live. Not in syllogisms, not in money, or fame, or self-indulgence. Nowhere.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“Stop wandering about! You aren’t likely to read your own notebooks, or ancient histories, or the anthologies you’ve collected to enjoy in your old age. Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue-if you care for yourself at all-and do it while you can.”~ Marcus Aurelius
“Remember two things: i. that everything has always been the same, and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period; ii. that the longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have you cannot lose.”~ Marcus Aurelius