“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
— Marcus Aurelius
There are few men who stand equal to Marcus Aurelius.
Not for what they have accomplished externally, but for the strides they have made internally.
Mastering their inner worlds.
Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome at the peak of the Roman Empire, is popularly known today as a central figure in the development of Stoic philosophy. Like Atlas lifting up the weight of the world, Marcus Aurelius dissected his human experience with surgical precision, all while running and ruling one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen.
And the world is all the better for it.
Now, through his recovered journals, we have insights and game plans to manage the stress, trials, and tribulations that we experience on the human roller coaster.
We’ve written extensively about Aurelius before, and for good reason: the wisdom of his words is truly timeline. As he said, what we do now echoes in eternity, and his words continue to echo our hallowed halls today, helping everyone take control of their lives and move towards mastery.
In his honor, we’ve collected 50 of his most life-affirming, Stoic quotes that will help you armor your soul and spirit.
Sit, ponder, and glean the wisdom of one of the most powerful men the world has ever seen.
Mastering the Mind
“The best answer to anger is silence.”
“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.”
“Confine yourself to the present.”
“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”
“The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself. Is undisturbed, except for its own disturbances. Knows no obstructions, except those from within.”
“If someone is incapable of distinguishing good things from bad and neutral things from either – well, how could such a person be capable of love? The power to love, then, belongs only to the wise man.”
“The first thing a pretender to philosophy must do is get rid of their presuppositions; a person is not going to undertake to learn anything that they think they already know.”
“Shall any man hate me? That will be his affair. But I will be mild and benevolent toward every man, and ready to show even him his mistake, not reproachfully, nor yet as making a display of my endurance, but nobly and honestly.”
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.”
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”
“Almost nothing material is needed for a happy life, for he who has understood existence.”
“Be content to seem what you really are.”
“If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it.”
“Nothing happens to anyone that he can’t endure.”
“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. But this is going to take some sweat to accomplish.”
“Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.”
“When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.”
“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“Give thyself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around.”
“Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.”
“Constantly and, if it be possible, on the occasion of every impression on the soul, apply to it the principles of physics, ethics, and dialectics.”
“Why are we still lazy, indifferent and dull? Why do we look for excuses to avoid training and exercising our powers of reason?”
“How long will you wait before you demand the best of yourself, and trust reason to determine what is best?”
“To have contemplated human life for forty years is the same as to have contemplated it for ten thousand years. For what more will you see?”
“Stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.”
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
“Despise not death, but welcome it, for nature wills it like all else.”
“A brief existence is common to all things, and yet you avoid and pursue all things as if they would be eternal.”
“Every part of me then will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on forever.”
“In a little while you will have forgotten everything; in a little while everything will have forgotten you.”
“Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system, let this first be established: that I am a part of the whole that is governed by nature; next, that I stand in some intimate connection with other kindred parts.”
Man and Society
“Is any man afraid of change? What can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And can you take a hot bath unless the wood for the fire undergoes a change? And can you be nourished unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see then that for yourself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?”
“So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”
“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”
“A vine cannot behave olively, nor an olive tree vinely – it is impossible, inconceivable. No more can a human being wholly efface his native disposition.”
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
“If you lost the capacity to read, or play music, you would think it was a disaster, but you think nothing of losing the capacity to be honest, decent and civilized.”
“Do you want to know if you are educated? Show us your values, philosopher.”
“You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”
“Refer your action to no other end than the common good.”
“As an antidote to battle unkindness we were given kindness.”
“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.”
“Whenever externals are more important to you than your own integrity, then be prepared to serve them the remainder of your life.”
“Do as Socrates did, never replying to the question of where he was from with, ‘I am Athenian,’ or ‘I am from Corinth,’ but always, ‘I am a citizen of the world.’”
“The love of power or money or luxurious living are not the only things which are guided by popular thinking. We take our cue from people’s thinking even in the way we feel pain.”
“Why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice?”
“Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.”
“The man who spends his time choosing one resort after another in a hunt for peace and quiet, will in every place he visits find something to prevent him from relaxing.”
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