“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”
In today’s age setting aside the time and space to create a “quiet mind” is almost viewed negatively. It is socially more acceptable to be busy all the time than to give oneself space to read, reflect and learn—what a shame.
Progress and growth aren’t created in the margins of life; it is made when one makes room for a blank page to do the new and creative work. To build strength, you must give yourself space to breathe, think and reflect.
What are you willing to turn off to allow yourself this space?
“At every moment, keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand, as a Roman and human being, doing it with strict and simple dignity, affection, freedom, and justice, giving yourself a break from all other considerations. You can do this if you approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint over your fair share. You can see how mastery over a few things makes living an abundant and devout life possible.
Isn’t it amazing that the ability to focus was as challenging and impactful over 2,000 years ago as it is today? I can’t imagine what Marcus would think of our fragmented world with all the distractions and demands on attention.
There is so much insight in this quote. One could spend a lifetime trying to unpack and apply the wisdom found in these eighty-nine words. Ultimately less is more. Giving up the things that don’t matter for the few things that do and persist over time is how one builds a legacy that matters, not for oneself but others.
What are the few things you can focus on mastering?
“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 – 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?”
What is the purpose of your life? It’s a serious question and one that I have found many people never even attempt to answer. It is far easier to get lost in the distractions of a transactional world or focus on what you do instead of why you do it. Of course, it isn’t an easy question to answer and will evolve as you move through life, and your understanding of what is important comes into focus.
The bottom line is that every second of life is precious. I might argue that every second of a life lived in a manner that is A) misaligned from your purpose or B) unaware of your purpose is suboptimal at best. Why would we choose a suboptimal life?
What are the metaphorical blankets of comfort that you are lying under in your life? Are you casting off the covers and getting to your purpose-driven work, or are you content being comfortable?
When something isn’t right, then the right thing to do is to take action. Perhaps the right next move is to step back and understand the situation, determine a suitable course of action, and then act. But the solution always involves taking action.
There are 364 days left in 2021, what action are you taking today to make sure your path forward is clear of brambles?
“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.”
If you aren’t careful, the worries of the world, those temporary things which cloud the mind and distract from what is truly important, can occupy all of the space in your mind. As a rule, we humans tend to weigh ourselves down with things that, in the end, won’t matter and ignore the things that do matter.
The key to keeping the important things in focus is to intentionally carve out the time to reflect on exactly the sentiment expressed in this wisdom from Marcus Aurelius. I believe it means as much, if not more, in today’s age as it did when he wrote it almost 2000 years ago.
Take 5 minutes when waking up EVERY DAY to pause and reflect on the gifts and blessings that you DO HAVE in life. Perhaps start a gratitude journal to jot down these things. Do whatever you need to add a process of active gratitude into your life. I guarantee you will find your outlook for the day, month, year, changing. More importantly, you will find your outlook on life itself changing. You might find that these five minutes are the most crucial moments of your entire day.
“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.”
This is such powerful wisdom. How much of our lives do we spend nursing some perceived wrong or holding a grudge about some injustice we suffered? If instead we were able to distance ourselves and choose not to be feel harmed how much better would our lives be?
What kept running through my mind when I read this quote is one of my favorite meditation phrases, “Is this useful?” I have found these three simple words have incredible power and can diffuse almost any situation when my mind is running away and creating all kinds of stories which may, or may not, be true.
When you are in a stressful circumstance try asking yourself this simple question before reacting or responding. You just might find that you have the power to choose more than just your response, your choice can redefine the entire situation…
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
It is amazing how much power we have over our minds, when we choose to exercise control of our thoughts. If we don’t, then we are giving control over to something, or someone else. That would mean that we are choosing to let someone else be in charge of our lives…
“You have power over your mind not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Where does your mind go when something happens that is outside of your control? Do you feel attacked? Are you likely to frame your response in a negative or positive manner? All of this is within your control.
It brings to mind Viktor Frankl’s quote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”I wrote about this one last July here.
Recognizing that you have the power to control your mind, and how your mind then directs your response to any situation is incredibly powerful. It is, I believe, what separates and distinguishes those who thrive and those who simply survive in this world. What habits of your mind do you know that you need to take control of?