Take Control of the Quality of Your Life

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Twice a month readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

What we'll learn (in 4 minutes):

👨‍🏫Topic: 4 lessons from Marcus Aurelius to overcome life’s challenges

🔍Quote: Naval Ravikant on our 2 lives

📜Passage: Pete Davis on the defining characteristic of our generation

Lessons to overcome life’s challenges

No matter someone’s status or wealth, they are still human. Everyone must go through the roller-coaster of life and take on whatever is thrown at them.

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, was no exception to that rule. However, he was able to overcome life’s challenges by practicing a Stoic philosophy.

His now published personal journal, Meditations, is full of timeless life lessons on resisting pain and taking control of your happiness.

Here are 4 of those lessons:

Train your perceptions

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. - Marcus Aurelius

We process the world around us through the information our senses provide. From this information, our mind generates perceptions. Ideally, our perceptions are a true representation of reality, but that’s rarely the case.

For example, your house burns down.

All that’s happened is just that - an occurrence. The issue is that we take that occurrence and perceive it as suffering a terrible tragedy.

Our sadness and anger aren’t with the occurrence itself, but rather the interpretation we gave it.

The concept seems irrational at first but becomes sensible when you understand that negative perceptions provide no value.

We humans are easily pushed and pulled by people and events out of our control. Mastering our perceptions puts the quality of our life in our hands.

Stoic philosophers use this practice to do what many don’t do - take responsibility for their life.

Turn the other cheek

God did not intend my happiness to rest with someone else. - Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was both criticized and praised, but he learned not to be affected by either. He didn’t get high from the praise or low from the criticism, because he wouldn’t let others influence his happiness. He made sure to stay in control.

Every day there are people and things that can annoy and anger us, but we have the power to not let that happen. Don’t take responsibility for other peoples’ behaviour.

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “If someone despises me—that’s their problem. Mine—not to do or say anything despicable. If someone hates me—that’s their problem. Mine—to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way. That’s the way we should be like inside, and never let the gods catch us feeling anger or resentment.”

People will never meet all our expectations, so rather than let their behaviour evoke our emotions, we should resort back to what we can control.

Love your fate

To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony. - Marcus Aurelius

Stoic philosophers believed that there is a universal force pulling us towards our destiny.

They compared life to a dog being pulled by a moving wagon. If the dog refuses to run along with the wagon he will be dragged by it, yet the choice remains his: to run or be dragged.

We can enjoy our journey or resist it and struggle.

There will always be things in our lives that we wish were different: appearances, wealth, health, etc., but we were uniquely created for our own path. Find the good in your situation.

Compare your life to eternity

Remember: Matter—how tiny you share of it. Time—how brief and fleeting your allotment of it. Fate—how small a role you play in it. - Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was always thinking of the shortness of life. He reminded himself of the pursuits of all the people who have come and gone before him, and how they are just smoke and dust now.

He reminded himself of death often to inspire him to get the most out of life, let go of insignificant worries, and to love his fate.

In times of joy, he thought of death to appreciate how great the moment is. In times of suffering, he thought of death to remind himself that it will pass.

Author, Ryan Holiday, wrote, “Comparing our lives to eternity is humbling. It shows us how small a part we play in this universe.”

Featured quote

Everyman has 2 lives, and the second starts when he realizes he has just one. - Naval Ravikant

Naval is commenting on how we initially live life very wastefully—spending our time on distractions and unfulfilling commitments.

It isn’t until we realize that our time on earth is short that we start living with purpose.

Featured passage

“I’ve come to believe that this is the defining characteristic of my generation: keeping our options open. The Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman has a great phrase for what I’m talking about: liquid modernity. We never want to commit to any one identity or place or community … so we remain like liquid, in a state that can adapt to fit any future shape. And it’s not just us—the world around us remains like liquid, too. We can’t rely on any job or role, idea or cause, group or institution to stick around in the same form for long—and they can’t rely on us to do so, either.That’s liquid modernity: It’s Infinite Browsing Mode, but for everything in our lives.”