I firmly believe that one of the biggest issues we face today is how reliant men have become on bullshit distractions.

We’ve grown to subsist on the quick, cheap emotional highs that come from external sources…

Whether it’s watching our home team win the superbowl, getting a new promotion, having sex with a cute girl, getting more followers on Instagram, or buying a new smartphone… We’ve conditioned ourselves to rely on external factors to achieve a sense of well-being and happiness.

In the past I’ve written about how the philosophy of stoicism changed my life: it taught me that I don’t need anything else to be happy, and it transformed the way I perceive the things that happen to me, and the world around me as a whole.

Overall it taught me how to maintain a sense of tranquility and contentment, regardless of the current circumstances of my life… and I embrace this philosophy to this day because of that.

And when it comes to the stoic philosophy, there’s no better role model than the great philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius. His book Meditations is a life changing read… it even motivated me to get him tattooed on my arm (as a reminder of his philosophy… and because I wanted to get a big tattoo on my arm at the time).

I recently re-read the book, and wanted to write a post on it. So below are five of the main life lessons that Marcus has taught me…

1. Our perception of something is more important than the thing itself

You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.

– Marcus Aurelius

Everything in life has two components to it: (1) the actual thing and (2) your perception of it. You cannot change the thing itself, but you can change how you perceive it and what it means to you.

Your girlfriend broke up with you? That won’t change. But you can choose to cry poor me, and feel like you lost the love of your life. Or you can decide that it’s for the better, that the relationship wasn’t good for you, and that this will be a good thing for you overall.

You broke your leg? That won’t change. But you can choose to play the victim, and be miserable until it gets better. Or you can decide that it’s for the better, that you needed a long rest, and that you will use the down time to read, write, and tackle other tasks that you were too busy to do when healthy.

You can always change your perception of reality and put a positive spin on it, no matter how bleak things may seem. If you get good at this, and it is a skill that takes time and effort to master, then you can essentially always be happy and optimistic.

2. Be grateful for every single thing you have

Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them.

– Marcus Aurelius

In life we can take one of two mindsets: (1) abundance or (2) lacking.

If we approach things from a place of abundance, then we will be happy regardless of the outcome. We don’t need anything to happen in order to be happy.

But if we approach things from a place of lacking, then we won’t be happy unless the thing goes our way. We won’t be happy if we don’t get the job… We won’t be happy if our boss doesn’t give us the promotion… We won’t be happy if the girl doesn’t give us her number… Or sleep with us…

By taking the time to do an “audit” of everything you have (i.e. possessions, relationships, strengths, etc.), and then thinking about how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them, you will put yourself in a position of abundance. Because you will truly see the value in everything you already have… and realize you don’t need anything else in order to be happy.

3. Obstacles and challenges cannot stop you

Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt… The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

– Marcus Aurelius

This idea is an extension of number one. We can choose to perceive obstacles in our lives as being big problems, or being simple course corrections.

You don’t get the job… Well then you need to keep applying to other jobs… Or start your own business.

You don’t get the girl… Well then you need to approach other girls… And improve your approach.

People don’t buy your product… Well then you need to find out why not (e.g. marketing, sales page, quality of product, etc.) and then improve on that aspect…

Every time that life presents you with an obstacle, you must choose to perceive it as quality feedback… And use it to determine your next move.

4. Understand what motivates people

Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.

– Marcus Aurelius

There’s no substitute for understanding the reason that people do what they do… And it’s often not what they say. We all have some motivation for our actions, but it’s not always clear what that motivation is.

Why did they insult you? It’s could be a reflection of how you make them feel about themselves… Or maybe they’re just having a shit day.

Why did you get into the career that you did? Maybe it’s because you enjoy it… Or maybe it’s because it’s what your father expected of you.

The scenarios here are endless. But it’s always important to stop and think “why are they doing that?” before you proceed… And it’s always import to question your own motivations, too. You might just re-think everything that you’re doing because of it.

5. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about other people

The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say, Or think, or do. Only what you do.

– Marcus Aurelius

If you give a fuck about what everyone else thinks, wants, and does, you just might lose track of what it is that you really want… And it might stop you from doing things that you want to do.

When I started this blog, I was afraid to put my really name on it. I was scared to death about what people would think about me. When I quit my software job to be a personal trainer, a lot of people judged me and questioned my decision. When I wanted to get better with girls, I was embarrassed to reach out to other guys and be honest about my intentions.

I eventually proceeded with each of these things anyway… And my life is way more fulfilling and enjoyable as a result.

But if I had let other people’s perceptions of me dictate what I did – and didn’t do – then I would probably still be in a cubicle somewhere, frustrated with my life.

[If you enjoyed the post I urge you to check out my book on the subject]

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