My 10 Favorite Life-Guiding Quotes from the Stoic, Marcus Aurelius

Where do you look for the answer to the question, “How do I live a good life?” Naturally, you refer to 165 AD for a perspective that transcends time. To shape my philosophical self, I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (one of the earliest self-improvement transcripts). The following 10 quotes are taken directly from this great work. While I typically offer commentary on their meaning, they are left to your interpretation (everybody could use a break from a pundit).

1. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”


2. “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”


3. “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”


4. “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”


5. “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”


6. “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”


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


8. “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?”


9. “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”


10. “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”


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