Read, study and internalize Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and you will learn to face the world and all its problems as a man should—head on with objectivity, perseverance and integrity of character. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who ruled his vast empire from 161-180 AD. Historians will attest the writings in his then unnamed book were never meant for publication; but were simply an outlet for, and an exercise in, his beliefs as a Stoic philosopher.
Apparently the man realized tremendous benefit from simply writing down the recurring principles of Stoicism which he found directly applicable in his challenging life. It is an exceptional opportunity to get a genuine look inside the mind of what was at the time the most powerful man in the world. This is especially true since it was a private diary of sorts where the Emperor of Rome worked out his inner most thoughts over and over again in an effort to perfect his character.
It is a worthwhile read for men in modern times because it becomes quickly evident the issues he dealt with as an Emperor so many years ago were not that much different from those we must all deal with today. This provides tremendous perspective for those of us who are not Roman Emperors because we can take solace in that many of the mental hurdles we face in our lives are no different than those of a legendary figure. It makes what seems like mundane everyday problems more worthy of our best somehow; if they were good enough for a Roman Emperor to face down, they are certainly the same for the rest of us.
For Marcus Aurelius, Roman Stoicism was not an abstract philosophy simply for academic study or high minded discourse, but a practical set of rules or principles to be used in everyday life. His writing is incredibly succinct, durable and timeless. Let us begin and discuss the Stoic principles from Meditations that we can all apply for successful living in today’s equally broken and difficult world.
Control Your Perception
–I can control my thoughts as necessary; then how can I be troubled? What is outside my mind means nothing to it. Absorb that lesson and your feet stand firm.
–It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage.
Problems, difficulties and obstacles are to be an expected part of life. The more you try to accomplish the more challenges you will have. This is just the natural order, the same as it was in Marcus Aurelius’ day. Imagine life as a Roman Emperor; as they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
What Roman Stoicism proposes is that every event or circumstance should be objectively perceived. All emotion and personal bias should be brushed aside. And that the best manner to deal with unpleasant situations is with dispassionate and objective consideration. Nothing should be taken personally and the goal should always be to perpetuate the best possible outcome.
The key to this principle is to realize that you do indeed have 100% control over how you frame your difficulties. It may take some time and a lot of stubborn application, but there is no doubt you can control your perception and benefit greatly from that fact. Stoicism would have you make it a point to face everything with deliberate objectivity and then move to take apart every obstacle piece by piece. Remain dispassionate and objective when under duress and the benefits are you will take the proper action, remain highly focused and endure until the job gets done.
–You have to assemble your life yourself—action by action. And be satisfied if each one achieves its goal, as far as it can. No one can keep that from happening.
–Why all this guesswork? You can see what needs to be done. If you can see the road, follow it. Cheerfully, without turning back. If not, hold up and get the best advice you can. If anything gets in the way, forge on ahead, making good use of what you have on hand, sticking to what seems right.
Taking action builds on objective perception. After all, what good is the right frame of mind without the follow up of proper and deliberate conduct? This is Stoic philosophy for the real world. It is practical, proactive and positive.
Sometimes the complexities of life will leave us paralyzed in a sense. There is not always an absolutely clear path to be had. In these cases, all a man can do is plot the best possible course and begin. Gather all the information you can and seek out counsel where possible—and then get started. Action will give life to action and adjustments can be made as necessary.
When it seems as though the challenge is perhaps too great, it is still within your control to forge ahead with verve and determination. After all, all a man can do is all he can do. Keep pressing ahead and pare away with your best judgement. Consider it a battle of attrition if you have to.
Remember, it is always within your control to take action. Do so as matter of habit. Eventually you will gather enough momentum and force of purpose to attain the success you desire. Live life on your own terms: take the proper action, never quit and you won’t be denied.
Live in the Moment
–Give yourself a gift: the present moment.
–Everything you’re trying to reach—by taking the long way round—you could have right now, this moment. If you’d only stop thwarting your own attempts. If you’d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice.
Perhaps the greatest mental skill a man can develop for peace of mind and immediate focus is to learn to live life in the present moment. Many of us are very ambitious and constantly looking to the future. We have plans and use them as motivation to take action and get things done. The result is frequently a loss of appreciation for the present and a pervading anxiety about the future.
As many wise men have said, it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination. And this is what living in the present moment is all about. Live in the moment with an eye toward the future. Be confident in your plans and ambitions, but make sure to enjoy every stage of the process. Make a deliberate choice to enjoy it all. After all, most of life is spent in the pursuit of our objectives and dreams. And although final victory and achievement are exciting, they are also fleeting.
It is a recurring theme with Marcus Aurelius, that all we really have in life is the present moment. As each moment in time passes it is indeed of no more use. And as the future does not yet exist, why not focus on and enjoy the only time frame we can really experience: the present moment.
It may take some effort on your part, but just as with objective perception, the mind can be self-directed to focus on and take pleasure in the now. Learn this skill and you will become twice the man and take your peace of mind and enjoyment in life to a much higher level.
Become a Stoic Man of Action
The key to taking action is Objective Perception. This is the starting point. Always remain cool and make it a point of pride to remove as much emotion as you can from any volatile or challenging situation. Train your mind to do so as a matter of habit. It will take consistent effort, but just as with physical conditioning your mental stamina will eventually swell in its capacity.
And then take proper action. Become a man who gets things done; a man who handles things and remains focused in the present moment. Over time even the smallest of appropriate actions will add up. It will take some time for the magic of compounding to become apparent. But then one day you will begin to notice it. You will begin separating yourself from the masses. What was once hard will become easy and psychological momentum will begin to power each day.
Yes indeed, you are on your way to becoming a superior man; a Stoic man of action.
All the best,