Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker‘s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.
Photo: Matt Dickman
This week’s selection comes from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He offers some straightforward advice on avoiding attachment to material things, titles and praise:
What It Means
This lesson is pretty straightforward, but profound. When something comes your way – be it status, praise or material things – accept it with humility, and be mindful that just because you’ve received that thing it doesn’t you are more important than anyone else. Then, do not attach yourself to what you’ve gained. That way, when you inevitably lose it, you are able to carry on unfazed.
What To Take From It
Aurelius believed that true happiness could only come from an internal source: Your mind or soul. To the Stoics, spending your life in pursuit of worldly things, such as material goods, wealth, social status, meaningless titles, and praise from others, is a road to misery and disappointment. After all, the more you want, the poorer you’ll feel. If these things come your way, it’s OK to accept them, but only with calculated diffidence. For nothing is everlasting, and one day it will be gone.
Avoid attachment to such worldly things as best you can. It’s an enemy of contentedness – one that you’ve manifested within yourself. That attachment, that desperate need for acclaim and affluence, is the cause of suffering for many people. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you, friend! When it’s time to let something go, do so with indifference. It was never yours. It belongs to nature, to the universe, and you’re time with it is over. While indifference might seem apathetic, it’s what grants you the ability to conquer attachment, and the hardship that comes with it, once and for all. You should be more than your things, your status, your money. Be thankful when things go your way, but be accepting when the tables turn. Otherwise you’ll only make yourself miserable.
You can read the entirety of Meditations for free here.