Where Would We Be Without Marcus Aurelius' Meditations?

  Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Let me read you this article instead

You'll often hear someone being described as stoic when they're calm, collected, and unemotional. You may not know that there is an underlying philosophy and movement known as Stoicism behind the cold, unfeeling exterior of this tolerant behavior. According to modern-day use, "stoic" describes someone unaffected by pain, pleasure, grief, or joy.

Stoicism is either not known or terribly misunderstood by all but the most ardent wisdom seekers. To the average person, this vibrant, action-oriented, and paradigm-shifting way of life has become shorthand for "emotionlessness." Given that the slight mention of philosophy makes most people nervous or bored, "Stoic philosophy" appears to be the last thing anyone would want to learn about, let alone need in daily life.

In its proper context, Stoicism is a tool for achieving self-mastery, endurance, and wisdom: it is something one utilizes to live an extraordinary life, not some arcane subject of academic investigation. Many of history's great minds not only recognized Stoicism for what it is but actively sought it out.

The Four Virtues of Stoicism 

  1. Courage
  2. Temperance
  3. Justice
  4. Wisdom

In Stoic philosophy, they are the most important values. It must be an incredible thing if you come across something better than justice, honesty, self-control, and courage at some point in your life. In our new era, we've discovered many things—automobiles, the Internet, cures for ailments that were once fatal—but have we found anything better?

...than bravery

...than restraint and sobriety

...than doing the right thing

...than truth and comprehension?

Feeling inspired to write yet?

No, we haven't done so. It's improbable that we will ever do so. Every situation we encounter in life provides an opportunity to demonstrate these four characteristics. These four values were what the ancient stoics tried to incorporate into their everyday lives. One such stoic was Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome. 

Marcus Aurelius, The Most Famous Stoic 

Marcus Annius Verus was born into a wealthy and influential family. Still, no one could have imagined that he would become Emperor of the Roman Empire one day. His early years are unknown, although he was a serious young man who enjoyed wrestling, boxing, and hunting. 

Marcus Aurelius

"The Roman Empire was controlled by absolute power, under the supervision of intelligence and virtue," said about Marcus, termed as the last of the "Five Good Emperors." 

Wisdom and virtue serve as a guide. That is what sets Marcus apart from the vast majority of previous and current international leaders. Consider the diary he left behind, now known as his Meditations, which we will analyze below: the most powerful man in the world's private thoughts, admonishing himself on how to be more virtuous, more just, more resistant to temptation, and wiser.

Meditations - A Guide For Self-Reflection 

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is most definitely one of the most popular journals in history. It covers so many aspects of Stoicism. It also provides an air of candor. Since it was written as a personal diary, it gives the utmost truth and most explicit perspective on things. You can consider it a self-help book was written by one of the most influential Roman Emperors of all time. Funny when you think about it. 

The question you're probably asking right now is: What do this BC-born, dead-for-centuries Roman Emperor and I have in common that I'd take his advice? That's a good question, and instead of trying to convince you, we're simply going to list different aspects of the book that stand out. You'll see for yourself how it can apply to you.

3 Principles, From A Stoic To You

There are three critical takeaways from Meditations that you can apply to your own life by self-reflecting and writing down your thoughts in a journal every day.

Why not start your own Meditations, like Marcus?

  • The most significant takeaway from Meditations is that our minds are mighty.

We always have the option to choose how we see circumstances and be virtuous. We may instantaneously remove any negative impressions from our minds if we practice. Our ideas and behaviors are entirely under our control. "You have influence over your thinking - not outside events," remember the two lines. If you realize this, you will gain strength. "What gets in the way, gets in the way."

  • People will always do terrible (or at the very least unpleasant) things, and we are only accountable for our own goodness.

Even though we are surrounded by evil, we can choose to be good. When someone hurts us, we can respond with kindness, alerting them of their mistakes, if possible, but accept it if they ignore them. When someone irritates us, we must evaluate their point of view, realize that we all have flaws, and respond with positivity and indifference to any perceived harm.

  • The most profound lesson in Meditations is about our death and the fragility of life.

We will be replaced shortly, and we should not waste our time being upset. With the unknown amount of time we have left to live, we should focus on doing good for others. We must regularly meditate on the idea that we shall die to make this a part of our existence. This can lead to some of the most profound insights available to mankind. Thus death should be tackled, no matter how uncomfortable it is to contemplate. We should think about all of the people who have gone before us, what remains of them now, and what will remain afterward.

How Can You Apply Stoicism To Yourself?

The Stoics were pioneers in focusing on what is now disparagingly referred to as "soft skills," defined as talents that go beyond the specialist requirements of our professional work and contribute to a more productive and pleasant workplace. These characteristics and behaviors that characterize our interactions with others can help us understand our own strengths and limitations and focus on improving our lives—if we are willing to look at them and pleased in nurturing the benefits of doing so.

The Stoics believed in constantly seeking to improve as people. They were extraordinarily self-reflective and critical of their acts to identify elements of their lives or personalities that may be improved. The practice of evening introspection played a significant role in this. Many Stoics would openly examine their days, always searching for areas that could have done better. 

This is a very effective exercise to incorporate into our daily lives. When we're constantly asking ourselves how we could have been more, what we could have done better, and how we could have been better humans, it's impossible to stay still.

The best part? You get to keep a diary or journal just like Aurelius and gauge your day-to-day actions. 

There are two ways to combine journaling and self-reflection to achieve a level of accomplishment in life as the Stoics do: 

  • Think On Your Actions 

We must always look back on our lives if we wish to go forward in life. This entails reviewing each day with a critical eye on a micro-level. This is how we get better. This constant reflection will assist us in realizing that we only have control over one aspect of our lives: our minds. Thoughts, judgments, and actions all originate in the mind. To begin reflecting on our day, recall all of the critical events and our subsequent behaviors, thoughts, and judgments. Consider your personality. Your personality. Your communication with others. The work you completed and the work you choose to avoid. Examine everything.

Our life is what our thoughts make it!

This can take a variety of forms. You can keep track of your activities in your journal for each half-hour of the day. This will help you to clearly identify where your time was spent — whether it was helpful or not — and to remind yourself of significant events and, as a result, subsequent actions or ideas.

  • Ask Yourself Questions 

The Stoics would ask themselves three questions every night: What had I done wrong?

  1. What did I do particularly well?
  2. What chores did I leave undone?
  3. How can I be better tomorrow?

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to these inquiries. Where else could you have gone if you wanted to be more? More compassionate, dynamic, happy, and understanding. There's always space for growth, and the first step is recognizing where you could have done better.

Putting your day up for evaluation each evening serves as a drive to live your life to the fullest. Knowing that your current acts will be scrutinized tonight will undoubtedly motivate you to live each minute to the fullest, demonstrating virtue and character strength.

Again, this is a discipline that can take many different shapes. You can do it as a free-form journal entry occasionally or build a chart with bullet points under each of the three areas. Sometimes it even helps to just think about it. 

We must keep moving forward by learning from our mistakes – let the past propel you forward. Lastly, in true JournalOwl fashion, we invite you to start your journey to self-reflection with us and sign up for our online journal services! 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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