Life is full of laughs and tears, surprises and disappointments. We cannot control what happens to us, but Marcus Aurelius said, we can control our reactions to the events. Your happiness always depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
Here are five of the most important insights on how to live a happy life from the writings of Marcus Aurelius:
Appreciate the shortness of life
“There is a limit to the time assigned to you and if you don’t use it to free yourself, it will be gone and will never return.”
True. We can always earn more money, but money can’t buy more time. The key lesson from Marcus Aurelius here is to learn to appreciate the little time we have and to start living our lives today. We often tell ourselves to start our plan tomorrow: workout, eat healthy, or sleep early. But are we actually starting tomorrow? Or tomorrow’s tomorrow? Understand the shortness of life and start living for today! When you focus on your plan, you will start loving your life.
Stop seeking the praise of other people
“It doesn’t matter how good a life you’ve led. There’ll still be people standing around the bed who will welcome the sad event.”
You can’t please every single person around you. Even when you are being sweet and kind, there are still people who dislike or disapprove of you. You don’t have to have the same thoughts or opinions as others. If there is someone that you really find uncomfortable with, leave them.
Negative emotions are a result of negative thinking
“Your ability to control your thoughts—treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions—false to your nature, and that of all rational beings.”
We are the one who give ourselves negative emotions. Different people may react differently to an identical situation. For example, the Movement Control Order. Some people think that the partial lockdown has completely ruined their lives. Economies are impacted so badly, and some may feel there is no tomorrow. Meanwhile, there are people who embrace the MCO. They believe that this is a good opportunity to spend time for themselves and with their loved ones. The negative emotions we experience are often just the result of how we interpret things.
Focus only on what you have control over and ignore the rest
“The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around them. That’s all you need to know. Nothing more.”
There are only two things in this life we have control over: our thoughts and actions. That’s it. The rest is out of our hands. But, how often in life do we waste time and effort, complaining about things in which we simply have no influence over?
Seek to build your own character
“The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates.”
People love a big house or a big car. When you seek happiness in the form of material possessions, you will never find joy. “If you can’t stop prizing a lot of other things? Then you’ll never be free—free, independent, imperturbable. Because you’ll always be envious and jealous, afraid that people might come and take it all away from you.”
In short, it is up to you to decide whether you want a happy life: how you see your life and how you live your life. Understand yourself: what you like or dislike and leave all the “toxic” persons or emotions behind. If something you can’t control has happened? Forget about it!
1. 5 Key Insights For A Happy Life From Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations https://www.dumblittleman.com/
2. Carolyn Gregoire, Marcus Aurelius and the Key to Happiness http://www.dailygood.org/