Meditations by Marcus Aurelius [Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Meditations: An Emperor’s Guide to Mastery by Marcus Aurelius. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.


The private notes of the greatest emperor ever lived. Meditations – an ancient book which I believe everyone should read – holds the daily reflections of the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Inside these pages, you can sense the soul of this great man. Understand how he viewed death. How he approached adversity. Treated the people around him. And most importantly, what gave him the strength to continue.

The Core Idea:

Above all, you need to be a reasonable person. To live in harmony with nature and to make sure that you are the same person both in difficult times and in good times. When hardship enters the scene, as it will inevitably happen, to face it and act nobly.


  • You have only now. Live in the present moment and use your time wisely.
  • Other people are outside of your control. The best you can do is to show them. Let your deeds do the talking.
  • If something bad happens, dig to find the gains. Don’t cling on the negative side of things.

The 5 Key Lessons From Meditations

Lesson #1: All You Have Is The Present Moment

Imagine what it was to live 2000 years ago – no fresh water, zero security, lack of food, continuous wars. People were surely daydreaming, hoping, for something good to happen. After all, how would anyone prevail the daily challenges if there wasn’t some sort of promise for a better future?

Yet, apart from instilling hope, hoping for a better future gives you a false sense of joy and accomplishment. What you really have is now, this present moment. Nothing else.

That’s what Marcus Aurelius persistently noted in his journal. He realized that moaning about the past and imagining a future where things are different, better, is just a waste of time. What we really have is the present moment. We neither hold yesterday nor have access to tomorrow. We have only now.

If you fail to harness the present moment and make your daily deeds worthy, it’s irrelevant of how many years you’ve stayed on this planet. Even if you live for thousands of years, you wasted all of them if you spend your time daydreaming or doing petty tasks.

“Enjoy the present moment. Expect nothing, fear nothing, speak truly, and act heroically. No one can stop you.” Marcus Aurelius

Lesson #2: Accept People As They Are

When we look at others, we imagine that they hold the same principles, ambitions, and intentions as we do. But when you come to think about it, you’ll easily spot how this claim is decisive.

Marcus Aurelius reported the same thing in his daily journaling. He wrote the following:

Begin each morning by saying to yourself: Today I will meet people who are noisy, ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, and unsocial. They can’t help it—they are ignorant of the difference between good and bad.”

“How is this helping me,” you might think?

Well, firstly, it will lower your bar. You’ll stop expecting wonders from others. Secondly, it will help you stay calm when you face self-absorbed characters.

As a person who’s guided by reason, you should know that there are others who don’t know the stuff you do. People who don’t have ambitions, goals, and simply live to see how others fail. Such folks are ignorant of their ignorance.

Hence, your task in life when you’re interacting with such conflicting characters, is to remain calm. Don’t try so hard to reason them. Convey your message using words but don’t expect grand results. And above all, don’t take it personally when they speak of you.

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