"Our life is what our thinking makes it" (Meaning Explained)

There are many a personality in human history that needs no introduction. Marcus Aurelius is one of them. This has to do with his political career and his office as Roman Emperor, but also because he was an extraordinary thinker and philosopher. Many of his quotes still occupy us today, most of them are easily formulated, but to understand them usually need a little more.

This time we deal with the following quote that I read for the first time years ago, but only now can really understand:

"Our life is what our thoughts make it."

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius is not the founder of Stoicism, but is counted among the younger Stoics. He dealt with what he had received from his predecessors and especially from the Stoics, who in his opinion had possessed great wisdom. But he also made many efforts to formulate his own thoughts, some of which were incorporated into Stoicism as we know it today.

Looking at the teachings of the Stoics, before Marcus Aurelius, it is relatively obvious that this quotation, rather belonged to Aurelius' basic Stoic understanding and did not necessarily represent an own insight.

So what exactly does this quote mean?

Even people who are less concerned with philosophy will quickly realize what is meant by this quote, since the statement is not abstractly paraphrased or formulated, but straightforward:

Our way of thinking and our thoughts determine how our life will go. If we think positively, the course will tend to be very positive; if we behave chronically pessimistically, this will also be reflected in the course of our own lives.

First and foremost, this is the case in Aurelius' thinking, since he was convinced that everything that happens in the world depends on our own perception (which we can influence). This is reflected, for example, in the following words of his:

"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

- Marcus Aurelius

Also, a bridge could be built here to another quote from Marcus Aurelius:

"...from the thoughts the soul takes its color."

(Luke has already addressed this quote and you can read the article at the link above).

There are many similar perspectives, statements, phrases, etc., like this. And you've probably heard many times that our perception of life is, in the end, a matter of attitude. But - and this brings us to the problem - man unfortunately has the tendency to know things, but not to act according to them. And here it is unfortunately no different.

Let's look at just a short list of examples:

  • You should not neglect your sport, otherwise you will degenerate faster and be unbalanced.
  • One should not smoke, knowing that it is harmful to health.
  • You shouldn't spend too much time on social media because it influences us and we could be doing more meaningful things instead.
  • And so on

However, I don't want to portray myself here as overly disciplined and admonish with a raised forefinger. I also have the tendency to slip into negative patterns and thoughts from time to time.

But through years of practice I manage, in the vast majority of cases, to perceive such situations relatively quickly and thus have the opportunity to counteract them.

Counteracting this in itself is relatively simple, but not easy when you have already achieved success. So it's best to start small and then tackle larger and larger projects.

But success is also a question of motivation, and unfortunately it's not always enough to simply have a great big goal in mind. In my experience, it is most successful when you negotiate with yourself (or rather your inner pig). 

It's no use acting like a sergeant and trying to enforce everything with harshness. The human mind just doesn't seem to work that way. 

Then, instead of breaking bad habits, the result is usually a strengthening of reluctance. You buckle and find yourself back where you started.

If, on the other hand, you manage to create a win-win situation for yourself, the chances of success are usually extremely good.

An example could be that you take care of the household for an hour, but afterwards you have the legitimacy to watch an episode of your favorite show....

Normally, you should notice that this makes it relatively easy for you to accomplish things, even if the reward is smaller than the effort expended.

You will find it easier and easier to work with smaller rewards over time. From what I've noticed, it's because you can find joy in being productive.

If you had met me in my teenage years and heard these words from my mouth, they would have seemed very strange to you. I was very lazy and could hardly get excited about anything over a longer period of time - except series, movies and computer games... In the meantime I can hardly stop myself from being productive. And that even after a hard day at work. 

It started because I began to have thoughts about what a life that I would like would look like. And that created the motivation to take the first small steps in the right direction. 

And the more small steps you take, the more you get into the habit of taking more steps. And then if you don't watch your feet, you don't know where they can take you. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm well on my way and enjoying the journey to the fullest.

I didn't give you this short description to make myself look good. I am of average intelligence and do not have an above-average exciting life. 

But it's not the worst thing to enjoy the simple life, as Bilbo Baggins did in the The Lord of the Rings said. Especially if you have managed to condition yourself more and more for a positive and forward thinking.

Thank you Marcus Aurelius.

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