Marcus Aurelius' meditations

What I’ve Learnt from Reading Books & Watching Ted Talks

I recently read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and decided to write my own…

  1. You reap what you sow – if you are constantly complaining about people, treating people with contempt and being bad tempered, you will angry, unhappy and low spirited. I don’t believe 100% in karma, but I do think your words, actions & thoughts are all related
  2. Take 100% of responsibility for your actions; it’s rare that you are the victim of circumstance & there’s never a time where you can blame other people for your actions.
  3. Thoughts of the self create much suffering:
    e.g. concerns regarding appearance, self worth, importance, how you are perceived etc
    True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself, less. Don’t flatter yourself by thinking people give you a second thought.
  4. Thank people for criticism and use it objectively to improve. Defensiveness is usually a sign of insecurity and is the cause of most arguments
  5. If you are made angry by something or someone, then it has beaten you. Laugh smile and be flexible in mindset. Prisoners of war survived the Nazi concentration camps by having a sense of humour, so don’t allow small problems & trivial insults overcome you
  6. Beware of the narrative in your mind. Don’t be ‘in’ your thoughts, observe them. It is okay to have jealous, aggressive thoughts, as long as you don’t speak or act upon them
  7. Perfectionism is an illness. Strive to improve, not to be perfect or the best.
  8. Be organised – have a To Do list in work and at home. This helps you to be mindful, rather than scanning our mind for things you may have forgotten.
  9. You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Avoid negative and superficial people. Don’t judge them, they are just on a different path.
  10. Attachment is the cause of all suffering – especially to possessions. Take care of things, but don’t invest emotions in them.

    TedSnow
    Ted Enjoys the Simple Things
  11. It’s better to have a small house and disposable income, than a large house and concerns about money. Be aware of the hedonic treadmill.
  12. Love & care for your family, friends and local community. See Dunbar’s number. You’re brain isn’t designed to care about 7 billion people. If you care for the entire world’s population you may begin to suffer from stress and depression.
  13. Never say “I hate people”. Focus on those you love, not those you don’t enjoy the company of. Focus on what is good about people not there 1 or 2 flaws.
  14. Life is all about good experiences, interesting & fun experiences can happen anywhere like work, in a traffic jam, anywhere if you can learn to laugh and have fun. You don’t need to be on an expensive holiday to have a good experience.
  15. Set weekly personal development goals such as reading books, going out of your comfort zone, or building character e.g. Take a cold shower each morning, speak to 2 new people each day
  16. Avoid hate, jealousy and bitterness. Life is just a random cluster of events, full of inconveniences & injustices that must be laughed at.
  17. Everyone needs a hobby & a passion. Ideally one which gets you in ‘flow state’ and builds social connections with ‘nice’ people. Remember to put your family before your passion however…
  18. Be kind, you can make or break someone’s day and people hold grudges for decades – so be nice to everyone
  19. It takes 10,000 hours to become a master, 20 hours to become ‘good’ at something. When learning new skills, learn the basics and then practice, gain feedback, adjust, then practice again, gain feedback, adjust, etc. Don’t read and read about how to do something, you need to practice it
  20. Only hold aggressive opinions about things you have researched completely and deem as highly important.
  21. Adverts (& the news) use negativity to sell you things. Don’t buy something because of an advert. It’s like a game to get you to part with your money.
    Beware of social proofing, loss aversion, the law of reciprocity and the power of authority – all used in marketingcropped-dadblog1.jpg
  22. Business is always mixed with politics, don’t let it bother you. Read The Prince, The 48 Laws of Power and How to Win Friends & Influence People
  23. Popularity is not important
  24. Type A Personality – If you have one – highly competitive and short tempered – don’t make the mistake of expecting everyone else to be a highly motivated Type A like you – the world would be a very stressful and unhappy place if this was the case.
  25. Acceptance is important. Resisting what is makes it infinitely worse.
  26. What you criticise represents your own insecurities
  27. You don’t need much money to be happy, but you do need sleep. Aim for ‘fuck you money’ – have enough money to say no to jobs etc you don’t want to do. Things don’t make you happy, other than food & shelter
  28. Cheerfulness is always the best approach to problems and day to day issues.
  29. ‘Start with “why?”’ when trying to motivate and persuade people
  30. Do everything with enthusiasm
  31. Treat repetitive tasks like meditation
  32. Never be afraid to fail. You win or you learn.
  33. Low energy can be mental or physical but normally both
    Address both potential issues with diet & exercise for physical, reading, CBT and meditation for the mental.
    Diet – probiotics, fermented foods, high omega 3, low omega 6, low/no sugar

    CBTNegativeThinkingCycleExample
    Having Low Energy Can be a Mental Health Issue (or a physical issue)
    Image Source

    fitness
    Exercising Outdoors is Free & Good for Mental Health
  34. All great men and leaders in history preach ‘a mild temper’

    Marcus Aurelius' meditations
    Marcus Aurelius’ first life lesson – be mild tempered
  35. Beware the power of Intermittent Positive Reinforcement. See Skinner’s experiments. Gambling is addictive because of intermittent reinforcement, as is social media
  36. If Ikea made a piece of furniture that 90% of people can’t put together, it’s probably Ikea’s fault, not their customers. By the same token, if you find 90% of people are intolerably stupid or ‘bad’, then the problem likely lies with you and your perception or low frustration tolerance
  37. Flexible people are the happiest – be flexible in terms of plans, set backs etc. Adapt, change & chuckle
  38. Beware of all the cognitive biases – self-serving, confirmation bias, etc. Learn more here.
  39. Be aware of ‘Faulty Thinking’ in CBT – for example, Mental filtering whereby people disregard the positives and focus on the negatives. e.g. when you focus on the one thing that went wrong in a presentation. More info here.
  40. Your happiness is not important – well it is, but when you spend time thinking about it, it becomes more difficult to achieve. Focus on others, make others happy, don’t evaluate your own happiness constantly.
  41. Learn to entertain yourself for free or on a low budget. e.g. hiking, camping. Those who need expensive holidays to be entertained usually find it hard to be happy day to day and are often skint.success
  42. Don’t build huge expectations in children. Telling them they’ll be a dentist or a great football player when they grow up, may upset them if they end up working nights in a factory – not that there’s anything wrong with this.
  43. For every person that says ‘never give up on your dreams’ there’s another 100 people that didn’t and never made it. Beware ‘survivor bias’
  44. Reward effort, not outcome
  45. Don’t personalise anything other than direct personal criticism. If someone is blunt, miserable etc, it’s generally nothing to do with you
  46. Imagine you’re 90 yrs old and you give your grandkids advice on life. The advice that you’re thinking of, is advice for yourself.
  47. Feedback is crucial when learning new skills – perfect practice makes perfect. Video yourself is required.
  48. Love imperfections for their quirks – they give things and people character
  49. Don’t eat in front of the TV – you will eat ‘mindlessly’ and not appreciate the food or even register it going in
  50. Growth mindset – never be afraid to learn new things – never say “I can’t do it”, you can’t do it yet.
  51. “Don’t outshine the master” pretend your life and your knowledge is slightly inferior to your boss’s
  52. Have a preference for how people behave, but not a demand. e,g. it’s nice if people say thank you, but don’t expect it
  53. Awkwardness – ‘move into it’, don’t be afraid of it – it can be used to manipulate you
  54. Meditate – meditation is all about not judging thoughts. Therefore it helps hugely if day to day you don’t judge people.
  55. You can Meditate doing any task – Be mindful when driving by constantly focusing on the road immediately ahead & bringing your thoughts back to the road, be mindful when walking by focusing on the sensations of touch and movement -such as the feeling of the wind on your face & the feeling of your feet pressing onto & driving off the floor, then be mindful of all the sounds you can hear
  56. Everyone started off a smiling baby, people are a product of their environment & genetics. Had Gandhi been born in Hull, he would have likely been a rugby player, not a spiritual leader. Remember this when trying not to judge others.
  57. Expect shit to happen & don’t be dramatic – The world and the universe is in perpetual chaos and gives zero fcuks about you. Just because you live in a comfy house and work a set rota, doesn’t mean random stuff and hassle won’t happen. Expect hassles like stuff breaking and just get on with fixing it.
  58. You are not your thoughts – You are your words & actions. Your ‘chimp brain’ will always be jealous & angry and want to be the alpha male, but your frontal lobe doesn’t have to act on it – use logic not emotion & don’t be dramatic

    meditation-1384758_960_720
    Meditation – Usually not so dramatic
  59. Write down 3 good things which have happened each day
  60. Write down a negative thought, then write down 4 positives. e.g. work is boring – positives – I don’t have to work shifts, I don’t have to travel to a city centre, I don’t have to deal with angry customers, I work with nice people
  61. Find the positive in the negative whenever possible. e.g. I lost my job but have learnt massive amounts about careers & life that I can pass onto my children.
    see the Zen Farmer – bad luck can be good luck:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81XIhTePvKE
  62. Life is hard for everyone. Get on with it with a chuckle & less drama
  63. Never be unhappy or angry about your lot in life. Others will always have more.
  64. Change a negative inner narrative by listening to and repeating positive affirmations.
  65. It’s good to have rubbish employment at some stage in your life. You’ll appreciate a better job later in life eg. I don’t let boredom effect me, after working in a call centre getting verbally abused all day. Boredom is good.
  66. Sometimes you’ll do nothing wrong and get told off anyway. No dramas.
  67. Working for a small business – you’ll generally learn more but get worked harder than working for most bigger businesses.
  68. According to Jonathan Haidt, suffering can lead to happiness if you respond positively and adapt
  69. If you’re self employed or a director of a large company, try to avoid being permanently stuck in the parent ego state*
  70. You Learn by Mistakes – but they don’t have to be yours – learn by reading.

    Ted
    Learn to enjoy stuff that’s free
  71. Magnesium is a powerful muscle relaxant, great for headaches & sleep
  72. “All disease starts in the gut” Hippocrates. If you have an inflamed gut, you will struggle to feel good regardless of how much you read and meditate. The gut directly impacts the brain and mood. Have a read up on leaky gut and the FODMAP diet
  73. Happiness has a ripple effect
    “Capitalizing on the Happiness Advantage does more than solely benefit us. Research into social networks has shown that behavior is literally contagious, good or bad. Our attitudes and behaviors infect the people we work with directly, but also spread to the people they interact with. This is called the ripple effect” (p.201)
    The Happiness Advantage
  74. Peace begins with a smile
  75. Power corrupts virtually everyone, don’t be surprised or upset by greed etc, all large organisations appear to have at least an element of corruption too.
  76. Social intelligence & confidence is just as important as knowledge when it comes to your career
  77. Risk to Reward ratio – Only take high risks if the rewards are really high. Is it worth doing an exercise in the gym that might make you more powerful but could dislocate your shoulder if you get the technique slightly wrong?
  78. Have a Stop – Loss Formula – Set a limit so you never risk more than you can afford
  79. I wish someone had of explained banter to me earlier in life – possibly a British thing, whereby you exchange witty insults and the person who gets upset first is the loser
  80. Say “you’re right” instead of “I know”
marcus aurelius horse
Marcus gives a nonchalant wave from his horse
 So to summarise
  • Don’t take life or yourself too seriously and remember that having a sense of humour & being cheerful is always the best way to cope
  • Always pick out the positives. Bad luck often makes you appreciate specific things or people or often turns into good luck if handled correctly
  • Don’t be duped by the system, which wants you to compare yourself to others, feel negative and buy things
  • Learn something from everyone – people don’t have to be role models, they can also be hideous warnings
  • Don’t judge your thoughts or other people if you want to be mindful
  • Be nice & don’t insult people unnecessarily – they’ll hold a grudge for decades
  • Read
 self development
Tips to Avoid Early-Midlife Bitterness
  1. Don’t compare yourself to your friends or others
  2. Take complete ownership of your career – don’t blame others for decision that you made and ‘wrong turns’ that you took
  3. Don’t be judgemental. All the most miserable people I know, are constantly judging others (not that I’m judging them for judging).
  4.  Never be angry with your lot in life because someone had it easier or handed to them on a plate. Get on with what you have.
  5. Don’t sweat the small stuff don’t be offended by anything other than a serious threat, don’t have a nervy B if a household appliance breaks or your car gets scratched.
  6. Eat well and consider natural adaptogen

 

adaptogen-infographicImage Source

 

“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.” 

 Epictetus, The Art of Living 

 

 

*
Transactional Ego States

Parent – someone in this ego state is always right and likes to be the authority in the room
Physical – angry or impatient body-language and expressions, finger-pointing, patronising gestures,
Verbal – always, never, for once and for all, judgmental words, critical words, patronising language, posturing language.
N.B. beware of cultural differences in body-language or emphases that appear ‘Parental’.

Child – Doesn’t like being in charge or making decisions
Physical – emotionally sad expressions, despair, temper tantrums, whining voice, rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, teasing, delight, laughter, speaking behind hand, raising hand to speak, squirming and giggling.
Verbal –  I wish, I dunno, I want, I’m gonna, I don’t care, oh no, not again, things never go right for me, worst day of my life, bigger, biggest, best, many superlatives, words to impress.

Adult – The ideal ego state to be in most of the time
Physical – attentive, interested, straight-forward, tilted head, non-threatening and non-threatened.
Verbal – why, what, how, who, where and when, how much, in what way, comparative expressions, reasoned statements, true, false, probably, possibly, I think, I realise, I see, I believe, in my opinion.
Source

If you’re interested  – you can listen/watch Ted Talks here or on youtube