By Marcus Aurelius

Note: This is my book summary of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and translated by Gregory Hays. My notes are informal and contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary includes notable ideas and lessons from the book.

  • Seek what is true, what is objective. Don’t let your ego or perception cloud the truth. Seek criticism. Seek truth. That is how you grow and find solutions and new ideas.
  • Learn how to be gracious and grateful in receiving favors and help from others
  • Yielding the floor to experts. Seek to listen, seek to understand, then be understood.
  • Never exhibit rudeness, lost of control, or violence. Everything was to be approached logically and with due consideration, in a calm and orderly fashion.
  • When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. None of them can hurt me.
  • People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time – even when hard at work
    • Determine a goal or purpose. Then let your actions guide you towards that goal. Otherwise we are ineffective and inefficient.
  • Control your desire for pleasure. Live a simple life.
    • Materialism, cars, clothing, being seen as “hip and cool”. These cloud your judgement and feed your ego.
  • Death does not impact your character so have no fear for it.
  • Your ability to control your thoughts – treat it with respect. Its all that protects your mind from false perceptions.
  • Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.
  • Perspective is the key. All actions or things are objective. Our perspective determines how we react to them. Is our reaction negative or positive? Always choose positive.
  • Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you will have more time and more tranquility.
  • At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for— the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm? — But it’s nicer here. . . .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? — But we have to sleep sometime… Agreed. But nature set a limit on that—as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
  • Don’t let others determine your actions.
    • If you think it is right it is. Be an independent thinker.
  • The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.
  • Our actions may be impeded by obstacles, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. The obstacle is the way.
  • What others do to me – I cannot control. How I react – I can control.
  • Advice to live life by: Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.
  • How to deal with others harming you:
    • When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?
  • When giving help, don’t give it selfishly, expecting something back. Give it unselfishly and move on.
  • Don’t be heard complaining about life. Not even to yourself.
  • When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic – what defines a human – is to work.
  • A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.
  • When faced with an obstacle, think of how you can use this to advance your goal. Turn it into an advantage.
  • Don’t look down on death, welcome it. It is required by nature, like birth and youth. A thoughtful person will thus view death not with indifference, or impatience, or disdain, but simply viewing it as something that happens to us.
  • Anger and giving up are weaknesses – they are to be avoided

More Essays