Purposeful Living: Lessons from an Emperor



Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was a Roman emperor of the

second century A.D.  He was, by nature, a sensitive,

generous, affectionate man and a student of Stoic philosophy.

The last thing he wanted was to go to war and kill people.

Nevertheless, he spent most of his reign leading his troops

on the Eastern front, trying to keep the Empire intact.  He

did what he thought he had to do.

While camped with his army in the valley of the Danube,

Marcus Aurelius wrote down his thoughts in a volume known as

the “Meditations.”   If he was a reluctant warrior, he was

also a thoughtful one.

Marcus Aurelius said that we are formed by nature to

deal with the challenges life presents to us.  Our purpose is

to engage life on its own terms and try to do what must be

done.  It may be hard and we may fail and be defeated.  But

we must face challenge and grapple with it.  Otherwise, we

don’t live according to our nature.  And we can’t be happy

that way.

In my business, I see many who are not happy.  I think

this is one of the big reasons why.  We are often not willing

to come to grips with life and to learn its many lessons.

I have yet to meet my first perfect human.  Everyone is

flawed.  Everyone has problems.  But the most tragic of these

is avoidance.  We have a huge catalog of strategies for

avoiding what must be done.  And we are masters at self-

deception.  We need some sort of machine to detect our own

lies because, usually, we’re not aware of them.

It’s not our problems that make us crazy.  It’s the lies

we tell about them that make them unsolvable.  We pretend

they don’t exist.  We want others to see us as better than we

are.  Most of all, we want to see ourselves that way.  We

want to blame someone else for our shortcomings.  “If only

you wouldn’t—–, then I could—-.”

Somebody needs to say it.  Only you can change your

life.  Only you have responsibility for it.  Only you can

make yourself grow and learn the lessons that challenge you.

If you have a problem, face it and try to understand what

must be done.  Do it.  Then you will be living with purpose.




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