What a 2000 year old journal from a Roman emperor can teach you about life, business and mental health

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

It’s surprising how some things never change in this world, especially when it comes to human behaviour and the suffering we put ourselves through.

I regularly turn to writing from leaders in years gone by to understand the mindset and approach they developed in dealing with what the world threw at them. A book (it’s technically a journal that was never meant for public eyes) that I read every year, buy consistently as presents for others and recommend to everyone from a great leader of the once powerful Roman Empire has been a constant reminder to me about how everything is pretty much the same when it comes to humanity.

The book I’m referring to is called Meditations, which is the personal journal of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. This book contains the personal insight of Marcus life, detailing the experiences he had and basically a running conversation with himself on a variety of topics such as power, mental health, love, business, finances and being a good person.

This writing has served me in evolving in so many ways and has been pivotal in designing my thought and mental process to face life’s challenges.

 

A quick intro to Marcus Aurelius

Marcus was the emperor of the colossal Roman Empire and he faced many great challenges during his life. The book of meditations was actually Marcus personal journal, where he would remind himself of his own thoughts, what makes a good man, confront his struggles and it was basically his own source of guidance. It was never meant to be seen by any others eyes apart from his own, but thankfully his work has been shared with the world and it’s one of the greatest pieces of philosophy in known human existence.

Often referred to as the philosopher king, Marcus writing has been widely adopted by many people and has experienced a somewhat resurgence in recent years as more of us seek meaning in these shifting times.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

 

What you can learn from his writing

I could honestly write a book about what you can learn from Marcus’ writing, yet I’ll try to condense it to this next section.

I personally feel these journals provide insight into all too common themes that we all encounter to this day. The overarching theme is one of a man that is trying to be his authentic self and figure out how he can do that in a world that wants to make him anything other than that.

Across the pages we find regular entries where Marcus reminds himself of who he is, what he believes in and how he must prepare his mind to deal with the people and culture around him. What the book highlights is that Marcus regardless of his position in the world was just another man and he reminded himself of that daily. Throughout this book it can be clearly seen that the problems we have of today aren’t too dissimilar to what a man of 2000 years ago was also facing, he has similar anxieties about family, wealth and the uncertainty of the path ahead.

It’s funny how some things actually don’t change right? I’m sure there’s many of you reading this that have the same thoughts as Marcus did, it’s just that he was leading an empire. In many ways I wish this book was given to everyone, so we could all see that no matter the time in history, we all face similar experiences and choices.


I like to look at the meditations as not only a book of teaching but also one of comfort. I find comfort in the fact that a lot of the same stuff I think about now was also being faced by a leader of one the greatest empires the world has ever known and he was just trying to be a good person too. I love to revisit this book 2 – 3 times a year, it reminds me that we all feel the same and in many ways it calms my own anxieties to know that I’m not alone in my sometimes irrational way of thinking. Over 2000 years ago Marcus was experiencing the same issues and would remind himself through his diary and everyday practices to live in the moment, to appreciate what is here now.

In my humble opinion, these writings have much for us to learn from. They contain some of the best lessons on mindset, dealing with adversity and being true to yourself, that I’ve ever read. These journals have been around way before all these self-help gurus popped out the woodwork with their in some occasions, snake oil for the 21st century.

I’ve been able to apply a number of the lessons from Marcus writing across many areas of my life, especially when it comes to my own mental health, how I engage with the world and realising what’s actually important.

 

You should probably read this

If you want to develop yourself and challenge how you think about everything. These journals have been used by many people, in many walks of life and has become quite popular with those in leadership positions in the last few years.

You don’t have to be a CEO or leader to find use in Marcus writings, it can be of use to everyone. I know people who are doctors, athletes, engineers and many more who’ve learnt something from this journal, it’s a human thing and not just another exclusive source for the success junkies.

I’m sure we can all learn something from the thoughts and insight of a leader of one of the greatest and largest empires the world has ever known. The meditations will always be in my all time top 5 books that I recommend for everyone to read and especially to those who have a continuous thirst to learn, develop and grow their mindset.

I shall finish off this post with a few more quotes from the meditations, in the hope that they spark some connection with you.

“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.”

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.”

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”

“Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness, but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy.”

Before you go…

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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