How to Think Like Marcus Aurelius
Three Simple Ways that Stoicism can Change your Mindset
The Meditations of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is one of the most cherished and widely-read self-help classics of all time. His personal reflections contain a lot of good advice based on the ancient Stoic philosophy that he followed.
Below, I’ve outlined three of the most simple and practical Stoic exercises that you’ll find within the pages of The Meditations.
I’ve been researching Stoicism for nearly a quarter of a century, from my early days as a student of academic philosophy to my later career as a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist deeply engaged with psychological-resilience training. I’m the author of several books on Stoicism, including a recent one on Marcus Aurelius called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor. Over the years, I’ve observed that although people love The Meditations they often struggle to know how to put Marcus’ psychological wisdom into practice. Below, I’ve outlined three of the most simple and practical Stoic exercises that you’ll find within the pages of The Meditations.
1. Living in Accord with Virtue
This is arguably the single most important strategy used by Marcus. Stoic philosophy was based on the premise that the fundamental goal (telos in Greek) of life is “living in agreement with Nature”. That doesn’t mean hugging trees, though. The Stoics believed that our ability to think is what really defines human nature. So the goal of their philosophy is living consistently in accord with reason. The word “philosophy”, φιλοσοφία in Greek, means “love of wisdom”. Stoicism therefore, as a philosophy of life, means actually putting this into practice by trying to live wisely. Reason, for the Stoics, is the foundation of all the other virtues.
Easier said than done, right? What matters most, though, is the intention to be guided consistently by your better wisdom. Marcus appears to have regularly checked whether his actions were in alignment with…