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Timeless 'Meditations' Quotes by Marcus Aurelius

Explore the power of Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" through quotes that guide personal growth, resilience, and Stoic wisdom for modern life.

Marcus Aurelius "Meditations" Quotes

Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180) was a Roman emperor and the last stronghold of Pax Romana, who is famously considered "the most relatable" big-time ruler. He endured a lot during his almost six-decade life, using all the challenges and pain of loss to create something to inspire future generations to never give up on themselves but face every day as an opportunity to rise above the circumstances.

His work "Meditations," written during the war campaigns against the barbarian enemies, represents a collection of maxims and musings serving as a daily guide toward a stronger version of yourself. Enjoy some of Aurelius' best quotes collected here that will help you with your personal growth at the present moment and in the future.

Stoic life lessons from Marcus Aurelius: Action advances action

Marcus Aurelius, one out of only five good emperors, faced many challenges during his life, including pandemics killing millions of his people and a constant need to defend Rome and its borders from dominance-hungry enemies. Those hardships honed his character into a Stoic personality of the highest level. Reflecting on what he has been through has resulted in the book "Meditations," serving as his best revenge for the disappearance of the Roman Empire.  

Stoic philosophy

For the Stoics, philosophy literally meant a continuous strive for wisdom. To make it applicable to daily use, Stoic philosophy has been structured into three realms: Logic, Physics, and Ethics. Those three define each and every "Meditations" quote left for us by Marcus Aurelius.  The life of a Roman emperor is all about action. For any human being, thoughts predicate actions. Hence, to make actions worthy, the thoughts must be clear, which requires Logic.

After mastering Logic as a part of the Stoicism paradigm, Marcus Aurelius would switch to Physics to check if the action fitted the "metaphysical structure of the Universe." The work of "Meditations," also deemed an art of living, aligns with the threefold structure of Physics: God, humans, and the universe. This often makes readers who dwell on a certain Marcus Aurelius quote think he was not a Stoic but a Christian in the quest for the most important answers. Ultimately, the Roman empire leader would prioritize Ethics as the third corner of the Stoicism triangle. 

Putting this all together requires a considerate thinking process, which is why Aurelius' work is called "Meditations." Let's examine some of the most motivational, inspiring quotes left by Marcus Aurelius

Powerful Stoic quotes

The entire content of "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius is about working on the quality of your thoughts and taking what one sees as a good life to the next level. For this, a human needs self-discipline. The latter is easier to build by seeing three tenets of Stoicism the following way: Physics as a soul, body as Ethics, and Logic as a skeleton and sinews. They all need to work together to ensure their owner is growing one's inner strength and moving further away from being dependent on the opinion of others and outside events.

In this context, it is important to mention another prominent Stoic - Epictetus. This philosopher devoted his life to discovering the main principles of empowering one's sense of happiness. From his perspective, maintaining control over one's own reactions and aversions defines happiness and can work wonders for establishing and boosting a person's reputation. It might be an extinguishing process, yet without it one's truth, justice, and self-control would not shine in all its possible might - because no changes that last a lifetime happen overnight.

Also, some other "Meditations" quotes that Marcus Aurelius left imply that one should worry first about their own soul instead of being overly busy with “peering into the secrets of others’ souls.”

 Let’s explore more quotes from Marcus Aurelius to empower you:

"Our life is what our thoughts make it."

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Quotes

"We love ourselves more than others, but we value others’ opinions more than our own."

We love ourselves more than others, but we value others’ opinions more than our own.

"A man's true delight is to do the things he was made for. He was made to show goodwill to his kind, to rise above the promptings of his senses, to distinguish appearances from realities, and to pursue the study of universal Nature and her works." 

A man's true delight is to do the things he was made for - Meditations

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

Meditations Quotes - Marcus Aurelius

"Come back now to your sober senses; recall your true self; awake from slumber, and recognize that they were only dreams that troubled you."

Come back now to your sober senses - Meditations

Best Marcus Aurelius' quotes about inner peace

All of Marcus Aurelius' quotes in "Meditations" are consistent in their entirety despite not being a scenario or classic story with a progressive plot. This helps readers not to overthink the process of studies and quickly find what may help them with their personal issues affecting their mental or physical well-being. Following the first books, he continues stressing the value of "not wasting life in speculating about others" throughout the entire work, as it may inflict "loss of opportunity for some other task," which means putting a new tombstone on the sidewalk of broken dreams boulevard.

Whenever one's flow of thoughts leads them to focus on others while overshadowing self-care, it harms and may potentially ruin their inner peace. To not let the outside harm the inside is truly a basis for keeping up and enriching a good fortune.

For Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, the peaceful atmosphere of mountains and seashores was the easiest way to recover. However, he mentions that people finding their encouragement in philosophy can "recreate" both of these places within the realms of their own minds:

"At any moment you choose, you can retire within yourself. Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul." The good emperor continues: "Who possesses resources in himself needs only contemplate [them] to secure immediate peace of mind - the ease that is but another word for an ordered spirit."

When your mind is at ease, the "color of your thoughts" gets brighter.

His other quotes on inner peace include:

"Withdraw into yourself. Our master reason asks no more than to act justly and thereby achieve calm."

Quotes about inner peace - Marcus Aurelius

"Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or the summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all the other things that delight or trouble foolish men."

Quotes about inner peace by Roman emperor marcus Aurelius

"Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears."

Quote about injury by Marcus Aurelius

"Let it be clear to you that the peace of green fields can always be yours, in this, that, or any other spot; and that nothing is any different here from what it would be either up in the hills, or down by the sea, or wherever else you will."

Stoic quotes by Marcus Aurelius

"You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

Quotes about power over your mindQuotes on daily attitude

Marcus Aurelius' quotes in "Meditations" are tailored to the ultimate goal of feeding one's inner strength as the basic precondition of finding and holding the happiness of your life in a confident grip. The emperor always stayed very humble recognizing that he was in the same position as everyone, trying to work on one's "genuine liking for the discipline," returning back on track "after each failure," and being Stoic enough to admit the validity of "submission to reason" that prevents a person from becoming "a matter of public display."

"To live each day as though one's last, never flustered, never apathetic - here is the perfection of character."

Marcus Aurelius' Quotes

"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them."

Swell on the beauty of life

"Live out your days in untroubled serenity, refusing to be coerced though the whole world deafens you with its demands. In all that, nothing can prevent the mind from possessing itself in peace, from correctly assessing the events around it."

Live out your days in untroubled serenity

"Be like the headland against which the waves break and break: it stands firm, until presently the watery tumult around it subsides once more to rest. 'How unlucky I am, that this should have happened to me!' By no means; say rather, 'How lucky I am, that it has left me with no bitterness; unshaken by the present, and undismayed by the future.' The thing could have happened to anyone, but not everyone would have emerged unembittered."  

Be like the headland against which the waves break and break: it stands firm, until presently the watery tumult around it subsides once more to rest

Quotes on what other people think

Marcus Aurelius was very serious about self-love. In "Meditations," he brought up what could be considered a first step toward depression: complimenting others, trying to win them over, while putting a new brick to the building of destruction by chasing illusions or ignoring self-care. Specifically, the author emphasized how strange people might be as they "spare no words of praise for their contemporaries, who live in their very midst, and yet they covet greatly for themselves the praise of the future generations, whom they... never will see." In this context, the Stoic emperor reminded of Plato and his famous "Symposium." Most of the works of Plato and Aurelius, including the cited ones, can be found on Amazon.

Close to Aurelius, Plato deemed self-love as a liberating and fear-defying instrument.

"When men are inhuman, take care not to feel towards them as they do towards other humans."

When men are inhuman, take care not to feel towards them as they do towards other humans.

"The sinner sins against himself; the wrongdoer wrongs himself, becoming the worse by his own action."

The sinner sins against himself; the wrongdoer wrongs himself, becoming the worse by his own action

"Cast no side-glance at the instincts governing other men, but keep your eyes fixed on the goal whereto nature herself guides you."

Cast no side-glance at the instincts governing other men, but keep your eyes fixed on the goal whereto nature herself guides you

"Always get to know the characters of those whose approval you wish to earn, and the nature of their guiding principles. Look into the sources of their opinions and their motives."

Always get to know the characters of those whose approval you wish to earn

"Observe carefully what guides the actions of the wise."

Observe carefully what guides the actions of the wise."

Quotes on happiness, purpose, your value, desires

One of the imperatives that Marcus Aurelius sees as a condition to reach and maintain happiness in one's life is not to blame others, but learn how to handle them instead. In Book Eleven he made a claim: "Feelings of hatred or aversion brings about [person's] own estrangement from [their] neighbors, [preventing them to see that they, at the same time], cut [themselves] off from the framework of society." The Roman philosopher wanted the readers to understand that our values and desires, as well as realization of our purpose in life, will not stand a chance without us learning how to be considerate of others and society in its entirety. Yet we still have to remember that facts don't necessarily care about our feelings, and help others come to terms with that. 

"It is perfectly possible to be godlike. Always keep that in mind; and also remember that the needs of a happy life are very few. Mastery of dialectics or physics may have eluded you, but that is no reason to despair of achieving freedom, self-respect, unselfishness, and obedience to the will of God."

Mastery of dialectics or physics may have eluded you quote

"When the force of circumstance upsets you, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it."

Marcus Aurelius' quotes

"Despise not death; smile, rather, at its coming; it is among the things that Nature wills. Like youth and age, like growth and maturity, like the advent of teeth, beard, and grey hairs, like begetting, pregnancy, and childbirth, like every other natural process that life's seasons bring us, so is our dissolution."

Death in inevitable Marcus Aurelius' Quotes

"How hollow and insincere it sounds when someone says, 'I am determined to be perfectly straightforward with you.' Why, man, do you feel like you need to say it out loud? A man who is truly good and sincere and well-meaning will show it by his looks, and no one can fail to see it."

Marcus Aurelius' Quotes

Quotes on obstacles and fate

A good Stoicism quote of Marcus Aurelius to remember that helps our life be fuller no matter how unjust the fate seems is "keep saying to ourselves" that "it lies in my own hands to ensure that no viciousness, cupidity, or turmoil of any kind finds a home in this soul of mine."

"In the constitution of a rational being, I find no virtue implanted for the combating of justice, but I do find self-control implanted for the combating of pleasure."

Quotes by Marcus Aurelius

"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it. If the cause of the trouble lies in your own character, set about reforming your principles; who is there to hinder you?"

Quotes on happiness, purpose, your value, desires

"Try to move men by persuasion; yet act against their will if the principles of justice so direct. But if someone uses force to obstruct you, then take a different line; resign yourself without a pang, and turn the obstacle into an opportunity for the exercise of some other virtue."

Quotes on happiness, purpose

"Though men may hinder you from following the paths of reason, they can never succeed in deflecting you from sound action; but make sure that they are equally unsuccessful in destroying your charitable feelings towards them. You must defend both positions alike: your firmness in decision and action, and at the same time your gentleness to those who try to obstruct."

Quotes on obstacles and fate

"Whatever may happen to you was prepared for you in advance from the beginning of time. In the woven tapestry of causation, the thread of your being had been intertwined from all time with that particular incident."

Stoicism quote of Marcus Aurelius

Call to action: Live a good life

In the end, all of the quotes in "Meditations" are about helping humans learn the meaning behind enjoying this life daily and staying good and resilient no matter what happens. And yet, Marcus Aurelius has never directly said that people must live good lives. Still, all his thoughts were circulating around this idea. Aurelius and his system of philosophical values aimed at improving one’s daily course of actions were affected by Christianity, which bloomed at the time of his rule and is clearly recognizable in all twelve books of "Meditations."

One of the most notable crossroads between Marcus Aurelius' worldview and Christianity is his advice to mind the “virtues [we] live by” as they will determine our walk before the eyes of the omnipresent God, who will one day greet us in Heaven's gate.

Hence, the utmost strategy for personal growth, which is a lifeline of the good life, is to work on our inner human and fill ourselves with spiritual food to sustain our self-love, self-awareness, and self-respect. Indeed, this sounds like an art to master daily.

"Put on the shining face of simplicity and self-respect, and of indifference to everything outside the realms of virtue or vice, Love mankind. Walk in God's ways."

Call to action: Live a good life

"Think of your many years of procrastination and all those periods of grace of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realize that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment, or it will be gone and never in your power again."

Marcus Aurelius' worldview

"The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing; it, too, demands a firm and watchful stance against any unexpected onset."

The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing

"Work yourself hard, but not as if you were being made a victim, and not with any desire for sympathy or admiration. Desire one thing alone: that your actions or inactions alike should be worthy of a reasoning citizen."

your actions or inactions alike should be worthy of a reasoning citizen

"For a life that is sound and secure, cultivate a thorough insight into things and discover their essence, matter, and cause; put your whole heart into doing what is just, and speaking what is true; and for the rest, know the joy of life by piling good deed on good deed until no rift or cranny appears between them."

put your whole heart into doing what is just

Read the summary of "Meditations" with Headway

Explore the enduring wisdom of Marcus Aurelius, the stoic philosopher-emperor, through an accessible summary of "Meditations" on the Headway app. Get the insights of a ruler who faced immense challenges yet found solace and strength in the principles of Stoicism. With Headway, you can effortlessly integrate the profound teachings of one of history's most relatable and wise leaders into your daily routine. Embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment with Marcus Aurelius as your guide, and transform ancient philosophy into actionable wisdom for today's world. Join us on Headway and let the journey begin!

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Marcus Aurelius say "when you arise in the morning"?

"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." Some sources consider this quote misattributed while others believe that it belongs to Marcus Aurelius.

When did Marcus Aurelius write "Meditations"?

"Meditations" were the personal notes of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, made from CE 171-175. Researchers of Aurelius' life and work assume that the work was created while the emperor was in Central Europe.

What quote reads "What stands in the way becomes the way" by Marcus Aurelius?

"The mind adapts and converts to its purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." This is a quote from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Book V.20, translated by Gregory Hays.

What is the best translation of Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations"?

Gregory Hays's translation of the Meditations is highly regarded as the most popular modern version. It is concise, engaging, and accessible, making it easy for the average reader to understand and enjoy.

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