Ancient wisdom for modern challenges

When life gets challenging, I turn to some of Marcus Aurelius’s old diary entries for perspective.

The writings of this ancient Roman Emperor date back 1,850 years, yet they’re evergreen.

I use them to prime me against the ups and downs of life.

Let me know if any of these work for you!

To psych yourself up for the day ahead

‘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’… ‘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 obstructions’.

Book 2, 1

When you feel down and have negative self-talk

‘Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer’

Book 8, 36

When someone is obviously wrong

‘If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you. Or no one’.

Book 10, 4

When someone upsets you

‘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?’

Book 7, 26

When you have Fear Of Missing Out

‘Don’t waste your time here worrying about other people – unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind’.

Book 3, 4

When you can’t face another day at work, or parenting, or whatever it is that’s making you miserable

‘Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?’

Book 10, 29

All taken from Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, with an introduction by Gregory Hays. This version is popular because of its plain English translation and excellent introduction, bringing the context to life.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: