Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - Purposeful In Thought & Life

“Objective judgment, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance of all external events, now, at this very moment. That is all you need.”

Marcus Aurelius

With today’s post, I’m expanding the subject of this blog. Rather than continue to focus singularly on financial planning topics and technical material, I’ll use this forum as a place to offer ideas to help inform the way we live and think.

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

No other book in the last three years has had more of an impact on the way I make decisions, view relationships, and attempt to organize my thoughts. Personally, as someone who can wear his heart on his sleeve at times, I’m not exactly “stoic” in my natural makeup. But Marcus Aurelius’s reflections serve to clarify my thinking. They lay my intent and emotional drivers against the backdrop of the Roman emperor’s time tested reflections on the nature of reality. How? By reminding me that life is fleeting and that our lives are shaped more by our mindset and beliefs than the physical realities of our circumstances.

Scholars agree that his Meditations was written as a personal journal of written prompts or proverbs. Interestingly, these intimate thoughts were never even meant to be read by Aurelius’s contemporaries or subjects. Yet they hold such weight in today’s world. Bill Clinton reportedly reads Meditations annually. John Steinbeck mentions Meditations in his greatest work, East of Eden. Theodore Roosevelt regularly traveled with his copy.

Author Tim Ferriss has said that Stoic philosophy is, “a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” I’ve found these writings align with this assessment.

This is the sort of book you leave on your nightstand for a daily 5-minute reflection rather than consume cover to cover. There are several translations with various levels of readability. I highly recommend the Gregory Hays translation.

Additional thoughts to ponder from Meditations:

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

“Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.”