Marcus Aurelius on Work

Once in a while, not very often, I want to stay in bed on a work day for just a little longer, especially if I stayed up too late, did not sleep well or if it is cold and stormy out.  But most mornings I get out of bed readily thinking about the day ahead. On weekdays it is the day of work ahead.

Perhaps I am lucky you might think. I am lucky I suppose that I have my health and I find my work rewarding and fulfilling. When you feel well and find your work fulfilling it is much easier to get up. I will claim credit however for choosing work that I enjoy and find fulfilling. If you can possibly do that I highly recommend it.

Two thousand years ago most people did not need to find their work fulfilling to get up in the morning. They had to get up and they had to work if they wanted to eat. (Well, I suppose it is no different for most of us today.) Even two millennia ago though there were the rich, the idle and the powerful who did not need to get up in the morning. They could lounge in bed as long as they wanted, and many of them did.

One notable man who did not was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. So much has been written about how bad many of those emperors were that it is refreshing to find one who was good. Aurelius was a very hard working man. He left us his thoughts on life and on work in a collection of writings that are called Meditations. You can get a free copy of it from Kindle or visit your library. Meditations is full of advice and wisdom that ring as true today as they did so long ago.

He wrote: “At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

Taking is lessons from nature he observed: “So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

Laying about and enjoying the warm bed is a treat and on a Sunday morning you may well give it to yourself as a little gift. But most days you will experience more in life by getting up (the earlier the better) and diving in. You will do your work and achieve something. There is satisfaction in that.

Aurelius was a stoic and it informed his philosophy. Whether or not you like the ideas of stoicism you can learn a lot from this man who thought deeply about what he did and why.

I have a copy of Mediations and I refer to it often. It is full of gems. I recommend it.

I also recommend Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings. It is the source of these quotes and the inspiration for this little article. She writes well researched and inspiring articles. I hope you check her blog out.

Check out Mediations as well and bounce out of bed in the morning to take on the day and do something useful and important. It will make you feel good and I think it will help make life worth living.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.