In Meditations, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius shares his thoughts on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The book is his collection of self-reflections on not just how to succeed in life, but how to take advantage of the time we have on this planet, and how to live a life that lets us feel complete. One of the themes in his book is connecting our beliefs, thoughts, and words with our actions. He encourages us to reflect on our lives and be aware of the ways we think that we and others should behave. If we can be honest with ourselves and recognize wether or not we are truly living up to those standards then we can always ensure that our actions align with our beliefs and that we are moving in the right direction for the right reason.
In a short segment in Meditations, Aurelius writes, “No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such.” To follow through on this advice requires self-reflection and self-awareness to measure our actions against the ideas we have for how we should live. Recognizing the areas where we do not act in accordance with our beliefs is not difficult, and we will have no shortage of excuses for why we do not act the way we know we should. Once we can understand the excuses and accept our own shortfalls we can begin to enact Aurelius’ advice, and we begin to see that our lives become more fulfilling as we live with a greater intent. Rather than wishing for our lives to be different, we can recognize the changes we want to see, enact them, and putt power and control over our lives back on within our own hands.
When we spend time focusing on what a good person should be without looking first inward at ourselves, we abandon hope of living our life with intention, and risk becoming increasingly judgmental of those around us. Cynicism builds in this situation, and we fail to take action to change the world in the direction we want. Instead, we see the negativity around us, assume ourselves to be a beacon of moral righteousness, and fail to improve our life or the lives of those around us.
We do not need to speak to others about what we all should expect from life, society, or ourselves, but our actions should define our expectations. When we fail to build our words and thoughts into our daily habits, others will take notice, and our words will become hollow, leaving us increasingly frustrated at our inability to advance and create the change we want to see or expect to see in ourselves and others.