Written with no intention to be published, Meditations (AD 121-180) is the personal diary of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor who wrote to himself each day in an attempt to live his best life.
￼Even those of us who love what we do, can on occasion, struggle to face the day. For those hard-to-take moments, we share Aurelius’ motivations to help you live the life you were made for.
1. Death is our friend
You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think…Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life.
Death is our only certainty. Every day we waste is a day we never get back. The trivial keeping us up all night no longer has that power over us. We act with clarity and gratefulness. It is when we take time for granted, we make poor judgements and waste precious moments. Death’s friendly tick ensures we act with purpose, love and action.
2. Get out of bed because what you do matters
When it feels so much nicer to remain under the covers and put the alarm to snooze, Aurelius replies;
What do I have to complain of…Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?… Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants … going about their individual tasks…as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being?
Aurelius believes our true nature is to live a life of service. The world is waiting for you to contribute your unique gifts and make it better. When you act like what you do doesn’t matter you are ignoring your meaningful purpose. You are worth so much more than that. So get out from the covers because you have so much to give and we are all the richer for it.
3. Do not give away precious energy to hurtful people
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest…and I have recognised the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.
People are irritating and hurtful: and so are you. We are all guilty of being unkind, lazy and judgmental. At the same time don’t allow people who rain their struggles all over your day, get your focus.
Strive to make yourself a better person. Control your arrogance. Stop getting angry with stupid and unpleasant people.
4. You are in control of your emotions
Chose not to be harmed and you will not be harmed.
Aurelius believes much of our suffering comes from our perception and interpretation of the events, rather than the events themselves. We mustn’t give in to negativity and allow others to have control over our hearts and minds. There is room to chose a different response and that is our responsibility.
5. Be present
Discard your misperceptions. Stop being jerked like a puppet. Limit yourself to the present.
Live in the present. The past has gone and the future is imagination. All we have is this moment; a beautiful gift that was not guaranteed. How do you want to use this gift? By living in the present we can realign our goals to where we really want to be, according to our own values.
6. Be grateful
Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess…but count the blessings
How many of us wish we had more? Do we look at our peers with secret envy or resentment? How many of us take the opportunity to see what we already have? Take a moment each day to list three things you are grateful for. Soon you will realise you have so much already and certainly enough to help you get to where you want to be.
7. Be Kind
An antidote to battle unkindness, we were given kindness.
Aurelius would tell himself never to say or do anything that if exposed, would bring him shame. How many of us would feel horrified if our WhatsApp messages were leaked? Words and actions have powerful consequences. Talk is too often cheap.
Aurelius is also reminding himself to be kinder to his mistakes. Watch negative internal thoughts, because we often become them…
Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought.
Be your biggest cheerleader and know you can only be and do what you imagine – so imagine something wonderful.
8. Find a mentor
Mastery of reading and writing requires a master. Still, more so life…go straight to the seat of intelligence—your own, the world’s, your neighbours.
There are people out there who have already experienced your pains, challenges, hopes and goals. Seek them out and learn what you can. Likewise, be available to those who want to learn from you. No one changes anything alone.
9. Do less
If you seek tranquility, do less.
Stop getting caught up in things that don’t matter. For us to live full and happy lives we must be awake to our tendency to overwork and compulsively do. Moments of stillness, leisure and quiet are essential for our own self-care.
Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, is this necessary.
10. We can only change ourselves
It’s silly to try and escape other people’s faults. Just try and escape your own.
How much time do we waste trying to influence the actions of others around us? How much pain do we bring to ourselves trying to make others happy? Deep down we know it is an impossible task. Also, we have too many of our own faults to work on. When we stop trying to fix others and focus on ourselves, we become responsible. Aurelius tells us that all the answers to our worries and concerns are already are inside us: if only we paused to listen.
Nowhere you can go is more peaceful, freer of interruptions, than your own soul. Retreat to consult your own soul and then return to face what awaits you.