I just finished reading the 2003 Gregory Hays translation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was a philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180) and was the last of the rulers later referred to as the Five Good Emperors. The book shares many simple principles in a series of thoughts or meditations.
The first translation of Meditations was published nearly two thousand years after it was written, and many scholars assume it was never intended to be shared. The work was never officially titled, so “Meditations” is a title that has been frequently assigned to it. Most of my quotes come from the highly acclaimed translation by Gregory Hays in the book shown to the right.
In this book, we are taken on a journey through Marcus Aurelius’ mind, as we read his private thoughts and notes he wrote to himself. Meditations is written such that you can open the book on any page and start reading. Many ideas in the book have become a source of the modern understanding of Stoic philosophy. Below are quotes that were particularly inspiring and also align with some of the Personal Kaizen 10 Rules for Life. If you come across a quote that really speaks to you, please comment below and share it with us!
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
What issues are bothering you that you have no control over? Can you decide to ignore these issues you cannot control?
“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.”
This is another simple affirmation Marcus wrote for personal inspiration. It is a great rule to live by. Undeniably, more people should live this way.
Are you guilty about some of your choices or actions? Can you decide to change?
“When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic—what defines a human being—is to work with others.”
Yes, even a Roman Emperor can struggle with depression! Marcus Aurelius appears to have written this in Meditations for some self-motivation.
Do you ever struggle with getting going in the morning? You are not alone. We recommend you follow Personal Kaizen Rule 8 and Give back to Others. Helping others is our purpose.
“We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
It is interesting to learn that people in Rome two thousand years ago were struggling with self-confidence and outside influences. Can you imagine what Marcus would think of the social media influences we deal with today?
What if more of us took the time to write down our principles? And live by them?
“Adapt yourself to the life you have been given; and truly love the people with whom destiny has surrounded you.”
Personal Kaizen Rule 5 is to Experience Love and Be Loved. Life is short so be sure to follow the advice of Crosby, Stills, and Nash and, “Love the One Your With.”
Love is a verb; it is an action. If you are ever feeling less in love, the solution is to do loving things.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
This is a wonderful reminder that life is short and we all should live in the present. Always say goodbye to your loved ones when you leave them. Resolve arguments quickly. Strive to live a life of no regrets.
Are there relationships in your life you should improve? What can you do to improve things?
“If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance.”
We find this a reminder to remain open-minded and think like a scientist. Your principles and politics should be open to change. Seek out discussions with others that will challenge your beliefs, and always seek first to understand other points of view, not share your opinion.
Where do your opinions differ from others whom you respect? Seek to learn why they believe what they do.
“Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you.”
This is another reminder that we are mortal, but also to live our lives and not worry about our legacy. This is akin to the Personal Kaizen Rule 10: Practice Radical Humility. You are one of several billion humans on a small planet that circles a small star in an inconsequential galaxy. You’re here for such a brief period of time. When you acknowledge the futility of what you’re doing it can bring great happiness and peace.
Identify one thing that is currently bothering you (about your body, your partner, your job, etc.) and realize how insignificant this matter really is. Laugh out loud about this realization. Feel better.
“The first step: Don’t be anxious. Nature controls it all. And before long you’ll be no one, nowhere—like Hadrian, like Augustus. The second step: Concentrate on what you have to do. Fix your eyes on it. Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people. Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it. But with kindness. With humility. Without hypocrisy.”
This final quote from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is another affirmation I like to imagine Marcus reading every day before the daily business of ruling his empire. The passage summarizes many Stoic principles in a single paragraph.
Do you follow these simple principles every day?
In short, we hope these quotes from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius speak to you as they do to us. Please share your favorite quote from the selections above. More stoic ideas will be shared in future posts.