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28 Philosophical Takeaways from "Meditations"

A bullet-point style list of my biggest takeaways from "Meditations."
28 Philosophical Takeaways from "Meditations"
Photo by Zul Ahadi / Unsplash
Portrait bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Originally, I intended to create an entire series out of the diary entries made by Marcus Aurelius throughout his time as Roman Emperor, better known as "Meditations." Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that provided the necessary context to best soak up the lessons Marcus Aurelius documented in his journals. To recap, Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor who had access to the best educators and philosophers of his time. He practiced what is now known as Stoicism, a school of philosophy based upon natural order in the world. All events are predetermined by nature, and we have no choice except for how we react to these predetermined events.

When I sat down to write this, I came to the realization that seven different blog posts about "Meditations" is certainly overkill. It's not necessary to explore every lesson in its entirety - the principle will suffice. If you're eager for more, I encourage you to pick up "Meditations" and interpret it for yourself.

I read this book for myself, for one reason originally: to find a new perspective on life. It's not that I'm unhappy or dissatisfied with my perspective, but if we can better understand others, we can be more empathetic and understanding (something I strive to be). While I read the book for myself, I also read it before I had any intentions of starting a blog; now that I started this blog, it's a great opportunity to spread valuable information to those who do not have the time to sit down and dissect all the implicit messages in "Meditations." With that, these are 28 philosophical takeaways from the legendary "Meditations."

  1. We should take action for the right reasons. Do not act for credit or with the expectation of receiving anything in return - act because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Acknowledge that time is a limited, finite resource. We are only granted so much time in life, so maximize the small sliver of time we have.
  3. Similar to acting for the right reasons, act with a purpose that aligns with our underlying principles in life. Regardless of the effort we put forth, without direction, it is merely a waste of our energy.
  4. Death is natural and not to be feared. The world cannot work without death; view it as a necessary pillar of life rather than a morbid end to life. Death is a process of nature that everyone must face sooner or later. Accept it gracefully instead.
  5. Events that happen around us are neutral; it is up to us to create our perceptions and decide how we are going to be affected. The perception we create controls our reality. We cannot be harmed unless we allow ourselves to be, so choose to craft positive perceptions and see the positives.
  6. We must prioritize our health and practice self-acceptance before attempting to help others. How should we lend advice when we can't even adhere to it ourselves?
  7. Acceptance is tremendously empowering. Some things in life are left up to fate, and it is in our best interest to accept rather than resist fate. Acceptance carries with itself internal serenity.
  8. Everything that occurs in life has a deeper meaning; every event is part of an overarching goal. We experience what is meant for us.
  9. Recognize mortality and live accordingly. We could very well fall deathly ill; would you be happy with how you lived your life? This is how we learn what truly matters to us.
  10. Simplicity is what we most desire. It is peaceful and full of ease. Do not make things so complicated.
  11. Everything in life is born from change. It is a driving factor in our lives, so we should treat it accordingly and embrace it.
  12. Life is meant to be enjoyed; so many issues we take to heart are extremely trivial in reality. Don't take things so seriously and lighten up.
  13. Do what you love to the point where you forget to eat or sleep. Be overtaken by passion.
  14. Don't take the opinions and judgments of others at face value. Trust your own judgments and tune out those who are condescending or bring negativity. Be a good person and rest knowing that is more than enough.
  15. We can create our own fortune and luck; do not take this opportunity for granted. Exhibit good character, intentions, and actions.
  16. Love others and show selfless kindness to them.
  17. Oftentimes, our mind is our limiting factor in life. If it is humanly possible, it is within our reach. As humans, we are granted consciousness which other beings do not have; don't waste it.
  18. Have an open mind. If someone gives a legitimate reason for their opinion, be open to change and debate. If shown wrong, gladly change.
  19. Large goals can be broken down into smaller steps. Use this to your advantage, and tackle large objectives logically.
  20. Seek out the truth. The truth may hurt, but it is better than a lie.
  21. While we should set our sights high, create realistic expectations. We cannot expect success and prosperity without putting in the time first.
  22. Get out of your head and be present. Overthinking does nobody any good. Instead of focusing on what has happened or what could happen, focus on what is happening now; this is all we have control over.
  23. Pride yourself on being straightforward and honest. It is pointless to pretend to be an honest person or a good friend; why waste your energy on people-pleasing and sugar coating?
  24. The world is balanced. Everyone has amazing qualities and not-so-amazing flaws - the world is just the same. Keep this in mind when you find yourself in tough situations as the good times will come.
  25. Stress is useless, regardless of the situation we're in. If we can control the situation, why stress? If we cannot control the situation, it is what it is. Why stress?
  26. We're all exactly where we need to be. Enjoy your place, or learn a lesson if you find it unenjoyable.
  27. Do not judge others without knowing the entire story. We cannot understand the actions and opinions of others without knowing many details about their lives.
  28. Men are not defined by anger or strength, typical masculine traits. A good man is one who shows courtesy and kindness to all.