Article image

15 Life-Changing Quotes From Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’

In the 2023 Oscar-nominated film The Holdovers, history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) gifts copies of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to multiple people, saying, “For my money, it’s like the Bible, the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita all rolled up into one.”

Unlike those religious texts, however, Meditations began its life as the personal diary of a Roman emperor and philosopher. It was also likely never intended to be published. Written during Marcus Aurelius’ rule from 161 to 180 CE, these introspective notes were meant to help Aurelius reflect on his Stoic philosophy and propel him along his personal journey of self-improvement.

The writings, ranging in length from one sentence to extended paragraphs, are divided into 12 books that trace the various periods of the author’s life as he endeavors to make sense of himself and his place in the universe. To this day, Marcus Aurelius’ musings remain almost eerily relevant.

Although we may not be Roman emperors, we continually strive to become better versions of ourselves just as Marcus Aurelius did nearly 2,000 years ago, and that’s where his musings can come in handy. Here are 15 timeless quotes from Meditations that can help all of us find our place in the world.

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.

Share Quote

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

Share Quote

When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.

Share Quote

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

Share Quote

Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, “This is a misfortune,” but “To bear this worthily is good fortune.”

Share Quote

Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.

Share Quote

If you can, show them the better way. If you cannot, remember that this is why you have the gift of kindness.

Share Quote

There is a limit circumscribed to your time — if you do not use it to clear away your clouds, it will be gone, and you will be gone, and the opportunity will not return.

Share Quote

Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?

Share Quote

The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.

Share Quote

If you are distressed by anything, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have power to revoke at any moment.

Share Quote

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.

Share Quote

Watch the stars in their courses as one that runneth about with them therein; and think constantly upon the reciprocal changes of the elements, for thoughts on these things cleanse away the mire of our earthly life.

Share Quote

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.

Share Quote

Accept humbly: let go easily.

Share Quote

Featured image credit: Wirestock, Inc/ Alamy Stock Photo

Author image
About the Author
Brooke Robinson
Inspiring Quotes editor, bibliophile, cinephile, and curry enthusiast based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
Fill in the blank: "I will either find a way, or ___." - Hannibal

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.

separator icon
Vincent van Gogh
motivation theme icon

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

separator icon
Friedrich Nietzsche
hope theme icon

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.

separator icon
Helen Keller
love theme icon

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, but it empties it of its strength.

separator icon
George Seaton Bowes
wisdom theme icon

'Tis never too late to be wise.

separator icon
Daniel Defoe
happiness theme icon

Nothing is inherently and invincibly young except spirit.

separator icon
George Santayana
motivation theme icon

The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.

separator icon
Edward Gibbon
hope theme icon

When I grow up, I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life.

separator icon
Phoebe Bridgers
love theme icon

The beginning of wisdom is to do away with fear.

separator icon
Yohannes Gebregeorgis
wisdom theme icon

Mistakes are part of the game. It's how well you recover from them, that's the mark of a great player.

separator icon
Alice Cooper
happiness theme icon

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

separator icon
Franklin D. Roosevelt