Marcus Aurelius

You have probably heard of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero, and other great thinkers of their time whose ideas have been present in philosophy books since antiquity. These thinkers are known as stoics because they were the founders of stoicism, which is a philosophical current that started around 300 years BC.

What most people don’t know is that some of the principles and ideas are still influencing the way psychologists approach their patients and if you compare the techniques and principles used by CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) you will see that some of them are very familiar with what the Stoics are famous for in terms of life principles.

The stoics put a lot of focus on how people see the world around them and on how you should position yourself when it comes to happiness and struggle. The great thing about these ideas is that, even if they appeared 2000 years ago, they still make a lot of sense, which proves that wisdom has nothing to do with what century we live in.

We have gathered a list of static principles that will help you have a happier life just by following some simple thought changes that will prove to be very effective.

1. Everything you feel is influenced by your perception of it

Marcus Aurelius wrote that ‘Both happiness and unhappiness depend on perception’. According to the stoic view on life, every emotion you have comes from inside of you and the way you decide to view something will influence how you feel about it.

The best example is the one with the glass half full or half empty. If you decide to view it as half full, you will be happy. If you decide to view it as half empty, you will be sad. If you decide to see it as perfectly balanced, you will have a feeling of wholeness. So, you see, the way you decide to view things will influence how happy you are.

2. Stop worrying about the things that you can not control

A quote that states how stoicism views our ability to change things is ‘Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within our control. And some things are not’ – Epictetus.

Stoics emphasize the fact that there are things in life that are under our control, like our perception of everything that happens to us, and that there are things that we can not control in any way, like the weather, our boss’s behavior or the way that people around us decide to live their lives.

Therefore, we should focus more on the things that are under our control and less on the things that we are not able to control. Because thinking about what is arbitrary can make us anxious and unhappy, which will decrease our quality of life.

3. You have to be an observer of your mind

In his ‘Meditations’, Marcus Aurelius emphasizes that ‘The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.’.

A popular stoic practice is to always pay attention to what is important to you. For example, if you are a violin player you might spend your time reading everything written about violins, like in this article. Therefore, if you give a lot of thought to your passion, you will use your time effectively in order to pursue your passion.

On the other hand, if you think all day about the fact that a bird pooped on your car the previous night, you are more likely to use your time in a manner that will not help you in anything and you will lose a lot of time on unimportant things.

Final thoughts

Stoicism is full of ideas that we can consider contemporary because even if the time has passed, they are still ideas that suit reality and can give you a great start in becoming a better and happier person.

Reading books like ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius, ‘Letters from a stoic’ by Seneca, or ‘The art of living’ by Epictetus is a great way to expand your knowledge and learn more about how the stoics saw life and the principles that they were practicing in order to be happier.