Marcus Aurelius on Living According to One’s Nature

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

A major theme throughout Marcus Aurelius’s writing is the need to live according to one’s own nature. Regardless of geography or time period, the great thinkers of the past constantly return to this truth. If you are to find peace, if you are to lead a great life, it must be your own.

It is difficult to construct own’s one philosophy. There are so many things vying for our attention, and so many people quick to give you their two sense with so many different mediums to do so. If we do not have a tangible understanding of how we wish to live and what we value, we will easily adopt the values of others.

“Dig inside yourself. Inside their is a spring of goodness waiting to gush at any moment, if you keep digging.”

That digging is a purposeful exploration of one’s own mind. We must put forth effort and attention, daily crafting ourselves and becoming more receptive to our own intuition. We may succeed in worldly affairs, but if these are not in accordance with our own principles, our achievements will bring us no peace.

“You know from experience that in all your wanderings you have nowhere found the good life—not in logic, not in wealth, not in glory, not in indulgence: nowhere. Where then is it to be found? In doing what man’s nature requires. And how is he to do this? By having principles to govern his impulses and actions.

In the first post in this series, Marcus stressed that we must have the ability to retreat into ourselves to maintain our tranquility in the face of adversity. In the construction of a sound philosophy, one comes to understand himself and can choose his best actions in the world.

“Every living organism is fulfilled when it follows the right path for its own nature.”

Ultimately, we must answer for our own lives. Our parents, friends, and society can view us however they wish, but no amount of praise or criticism holds any real value compared to our relationship with our own path. We are each asked by life why we are here, and we answer with the way in which we live. We are all made so different– there are no cookie cutter answers to our deepest questions.

This is both inspiring and terrifying. With the freedom to choose one’s own way comes the responsibility to do so. This means that our failures and our accomplishments are our own. But, when you have chosen your path and walk it nobly, does failure even exist?

Even if you could fail, I’d rather fail terribly at my own game than succeed at someone else’s. Marcus Aurelius understood that when one lives according to nature, guided by a personal philosophy based on reason and one’s own values, you become impervious to the struggles of happenstance.

“And what harm can you suffer, if you yourself at this present moment are acting in kind with your own nature.”

Next up, we find the true value of philosophy, mastering ourselves through the mastery of our thoughts.

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