How to live a good life?

Teachings of the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to lead a stoic life.

We all are in this world for just one purpose and that is to be happy in life. Even if you object saying my only goal in this world is to serve this or that and die. But serving the world consistently is what gives you satisfaction and that feeling makes you think you have achieved something, a rush of pride in yourself. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all are chasing happiness but feel like its a balloon carried away by the wind which you forever chase until you reach the pit called death. Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher of the Roman empire has given a few things you should follow in your life to make it a happy one.

Who is Marcus Aurelius?

Marcus Annius Verus was born in a prominent and established family. But nobody at the time would have predicted that he would one day be Emperor of the Empire. In 161, as Antoninus (senator who adopted him as a child and changed his name) died and ended one of the longest reigns. Marcus became the Emperor of the Roman Empire and ruled for nearly two decades until his death in 180.  Just consider the diary that he left behind, which is now known as his Meditations, his private opinions of the most powerful man in the world, advising himself on how to be more virtuous, more just, more immune to temptation, wiser.

And for Marcus, Stoicism provided a framework for dealing with the stresses of daily life as a leader of one of the most powerful empires in human history. It is not surprising that he wrote his Meditations in the last decade of his life.

His personal diary which he named as “meditations” was written during his old age, just to remind himself about his own philosophies from the experiences he had during his whole lifetime. Even after 2000 years, a lot of people follow his philosophies in their everyday life. He was even an inspiration for leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela.

What is stoicism?

In simple words, Stoicism is a way of living designed to help people live their best possible life! It is a philosophy that helps people increase their positive emotions, reduce negativity and live life as it is meant to be. 
Stoicism was deliberately created to be understandable, practical and useful. Practicing Stoicism doesn’t require learning an entirely new philosophical lexicon or meditating for hours a day. Instead, it offers an immediate, useful and practical way to find tranquility and improve one’s strengths of character. It is also followed by many of the wise people who lived and still living in high profiles to keep them calm and composed all the time. 

Marcus Aurelius’s tips to live a stoic life

Stop speculating other’s actions

Ignore what others are doing. Time is very precious and limited to us. So don’t waste that time on thinking about what they are doing or what they are up to or what they think about us? Well, comparing yourself with someone in a healthy manner is good. But never pay self-confidence to just know and speculate about their life with yours. Everything has a limit, even your thoughts if you know. 

Instead, focus on your tasks in hand, and what are those? Well, anything related to creating art, supporting and empowering others or anything that will bring betterment to your or the society. 

“Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors. Anything that distracts you from fidelity to the Ruler within you means a loss of opportunity for some other task.” 

– Marcus Aurelius 

With social media ruling among every single person on earth, it has become more than just for ‘communication’ purposes I suppose. Because of these media, people grow greed, jealousy, and envy among each other. Social well being is a very important concern for every human being.

Here’s a challenge for you all! Go back to 2000s, try uninstalling social media for one full week. sacrifice social media, be actually social instead. Hang out with your friends and family. Get to know each other. Tell your life partner how much they mean to you, in person. Experience the bliss.

Do less

I know that the title sounds a bit absurd but try to think. What does it benefit from doing less? It is important because it is when you solely dedicate time for those things and in turn makes you happy by doing it right. Even the philosophy of meditation is to bring the frequency of your mind lesser than how it is in normal times. When you give more time to think of one single thought, speculate what needs to be done and make a conclusion about it, its less of a possibility that it will return back again. 

“‘If thou wouldst know contentment, let thy deeds be few,’ said the sage. Better still limit them strictly to such as are essential, and to such as in a social being reason demands, and as it demands.”

-Marcus Aurelius. 

Restrict yourself from doing a lot at the same time; instead, try to finish them one by one at a time. And cut out redundant work from your schedule. By questioning yourself and removing superfluous thoughts, The more focus we will have for what is important to us in life. That might be time with your family, time to do your creative work, or the chance to help others.

You carve your own reality

Reality is what you make out of your opinions. We shape our own reality with our thoughts. So, how to make the best out of it? Take every reality you see in a positive light. 

Whatever happens to you has a reason. Even if someone talks bad about you to your face, be glad that you did something to provoke him rather than doing nothing. If someone insults you, try to analyze their views about you if that person is someone who cares about you and see what you can extract from it that will help you to grow. 
It is our interpretation of what they are saying which hurts us. 

“If I do not view the thing as an evil, I take no hurt.”

-Marcus Aurelius

Even if you know that the person’s argument about you is totally absurd, think in this way. If we interpret others’ actions as irrelevant, how can we feel hurt?

“Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.”

-Marcus Aurelius

We often think that events like losing a job or a failed marriage are considered bad in our lives. No event is good or bad in itself. Stories we write after the bad events determine whether it makes that event good or bad. Maybe losing a job is good because you deserved better. Maybe it’s healthy to live a single life than being with someone you don’t get along with. 

You can control what you do, not what happens to you. Nature has its own set of goals, it’s up to us to find out what are those and live in accordance with that. 

You are writing an endless book with endless ink but with no way to erase what you write. If you choose to mourn about the same thing on every single page, it won’t make a good book. But if you choose to battle through and prove the people wrong, the coming generations will still keep writing about you, an endless book.

You are stronger than you think

If someone want to win a gold in Olympics or be the best entrepreneur ever lived, you gotta pass through the people in front of you right now. You gotta take hits, be restless and work harder than the one who’s at the top now. People might have to choose the hardest path, but in the end, it is the one which will make them stronger.

Whenever someone tries to harm you, think of these words from Marcus Aurelius:

“How lucky I am, that it has left me with no bitterness; unshaken by the present, and undismayed by the future. The thing could have happened to anyone, but not everyone would have emerged unembittered.”

You are more tough than you think you are right now. There’s always a way to improvise yourself. Yes, people will talk ill about you, say that you aren’t gonna make, and you cant stop them from saying all those things. But what you can change is the interpretation of that situation. 

We are two parts of the same whole

You can’t say that you depend on no one in this life. From the doctors who help giving birth to you till the day when your pallbearers drop your coffin in the ground, you need someone. We, as humans help each other. No man is on their own planet. The more you help others, the more you gain back. It’s always a win for everyone. 

Imagine that nature is a human being. Each human is a part of it. Let’s say you are a finger and your society is the hand. As an individual part, you can control your own perceptions but can’t control what happens to you. All the parts of the body need to be harmonized to serve the goals of the whole body, that is, nature. A good life is the one which is lived in accordance with nature. Marcus says it requires two important aspects: Justice and Piety. 

“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

Justice is when all the individuals cooperate and do what’s good for the whole body. What’s good for the body is good for the finger. What’s good for society is ultimately good for the individual. Meanwhile, an unjust person acts selfishly and forgets they are a part of the body. Harming another person will ultimately return back to you. Remember, we are just two parts of one whole. 

Stop complaining

The second aspect needed to lead a good life is Piety. Piety is being optimistic about life and knowing that they can’t control what happens to them even if we set out to help others, there’s no assurance that they will approve it. Nature has its own goals. Anything that happens to you was meant to happen. ‘Love your fate’. He particularly quotes about this as

“Is your cucumber bitter Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough.” 

Do you have anyone annoying you? unfollow and block them. Do you hate your job? find a way to make it less miserable than it is now. We cannot change the external circumstances, but we change the attitude we have towards them. And that is what needed the most. 

Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. 

-Gary Vee

Be grateful for your blessings.

Getting all the money in the world still won’t make someone happy. Someone with people lining up just for a picture can still feel lonely. Always, always be grateful for whatever you are blessed with. Be it your creativity to make art, to sing or dance or study anything at all to make this world a better place to live. 

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” 

-Marcus Aurelius

No matter how wealthy or successful we are, we can never get everything that we want. Happiness isn’t having everything in the world. Rather, happiness is being grateful for all the blessings we already have.

Live happy, anywhere! 

No matter what happens, some people just don’t get peace at home. They do not find happiness, anywhere they live. They just look for some other better place. If you were happy with where you lived and the home you lived in and didn’t desire to live elsewhere, or in a bigger or better home, how much more energy, money, and attention could you have for better things in life? 

Even if where you live sucks, you can find positives in it. If you live in a “boring” place, it will force you to be more creative to find interesting things to do. And it might be an opportunity for you to start something interesting.

“Let it be clear to you that the pace of green fields can always be yours, in this, that or any other spot; and that nothing is any different here from what it would be either up in the hills, or down by the sea, or wherever else you will.” 

-Marcus Aurelius

You’re the master of your destiny— never complain where you live. Instead, reap all the benefits of the neighborhood or city or place you live in.

Death is knocking your door

We do things in a hurry without wasting time when you have very less time to finish it when it’s very imminent that it will be over soon. Think the same way about death. You will be dead soon. All men and women are destined to die someday. When we know that death is close, we don’t waste our time. We don’t waste our precious leisure time watching TV or other forms of passive entertainment and rush into doing what we are passionate about and work that is meaningful to us. Also, we spend more time with our loved ones and omit superfluous people and actions from our lives.

Let me give you an example, have you seen people who have cancer and knows that they will live only this many months? They exclude all the negativity and try to do what makes them and the people around them happy. They focus on what’s important to them. Yet we all have the ability to only do what is important to us. By meditating on death on a daily basis, we won’t waste even a drop of our time.

“Very soon you will be dead; but even yet you are not single-minded.”

-Marcus Aurelius

He says to himself that he will be dead soon but he is still not a single minded person.

“Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus.” 

-Marcus Aurelius

He wants you to think about all the important things in your life when you sleep and consider your entire life, your day, and whether you did everything in your power to help empower those around you. Procrastinate on things that you wouldn’t mind being undone if you were dead.

Conclusion

“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius is still held up so far even after 2000 years, for a reason that people now because of it’s benefits in their life they observed. I hope that you can also integrate some of these lessons into your life, to give you less suffering, stress, anxiety, and more strength to do your life’s task to serve the common good. Sharing knowledge is equal to empowering someone else’s life. Share it if you liked!