One of the biggest critiques I have about most dating and relationship websites are that they focus too much on just dating/relationships and fail to acknowledge the bigger picture.
And today, we’re going to fix that.
Relationships and breakups are just one part of life – and in my experience, one of the best ways to heal the pain of a breakup is to embrace the wholeness of your entire life, as opposed to focusing on your relationships (or lack thereof) themselves.
With that in mind – I wanted to take the chance to do something a little bit different today and go over how to live a good life according to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, last of the so-called 5 good emperors.
In this case, I’m specifically going to draw from his well-known work Meditations, which was originally akin to the notes of a practicing philosopher.
Because at the end of the day, when you’re facing a dark time, whether that’s a breakup or the quarantine we’re currently going through, philosophy has the power to help us keep our cool when the cards are down.
I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of Meditations – as it’s one of the most transformative works of philosophy ever written and is as true today as when it was written, nearly 2000 years ago.
Although Marcus was prone to melancholy – and indeed some of Meditations is rather dark, there are still lessons to be gained and adapted to our modern times.
And of those lessons, hope can bloom in kind.
1: Change Is Part Of Life
The world is maintained by change—in the elements and in the things they compose.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
Marcus continuously reminds us that everything in life is temporary, and rather than trying to fight this force of nature, we should instead embrace it.
According to Marcus, because change is a force of nature, it cannot be evil, and because it’s not evil, it should not be feared.
In your life and relationships, change is a part of life. You will change, and the people around you will change.
In your life, you’ve probably seen many people in violation of this edict. A common example is people stuck in unhappy relationships because they fear what might happen if they decide to leave.
In your own life, you should continuously be aware of people, habits, jobs, and relationships that no longer serve you.
You should apply this same standard to your ex-girlfriend as well. One of the main reasons I don’t recommend getting back with an ex is because it violates this law of change.
By taking the time to meet new people, you’ll be able to grow through change.
When you realize that something no longer fits, don’t be afraid to let it go, as opposed to desperately clinging to the status quo.
2: You Need Less To Be Happy Than You Think
There are precious few things that are crucial to happiness, and one should endeavor to do them with purpose, and without being distracted by emotion and instead relying on logic.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
As a Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius had access to all the luxuries the 2nd century AD had to offer – yet he continuously reminded himself to live a humble life because he realized that indulging in hedonistic pleasure was not the way to live.
Today, we have access to a world of information and pleasure – and yet according to every metric I could find, people around the world are unhappier than ever.
While there are many legitimate reasons for this, including political and economic disruption in some 3rd world countries, the western world has no such excuse.
In my experience, much of our western stress is due to the pursuit of all the wrong things. Both men and women are equally guilty of this.
For us, it’s all about money and women – which are both great – but in a vacuum, getting either or both are not going to make you happy.
While it’s easy to assume when you have neither that having both will make you happy – they won’t, on their own. Instead, Marcus believes there are two primary things that you do need.
3: Having A Purpose In Life Is Critical To Being Happy
Do not be distracted by the threads that pull you in every direction. Focus. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time – even if they are hard at work […] Do your job with focus, diligence, and patience, and embrace this process without fear or hesitation with utter truthfulness, and happiness will result.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
I’ve said this verbatim for years.
A man needs a purpose to be happy.
I don’t think I need to get too far into this, as Marcus does a great job of it for me.
Without a purpose, it’s all too easy to become invested in all the wrong things, like chasing money and women – which don’t lead to happiness.
Moreover, having a strong purpose will help you get over your ex-girlfriend because it shifts your focus from her, which you can’t control, to you and your situation, which you can.
4: Care For Others & Strive To Be Sympathetic
He keeps in mind that all rational things are related, and that to care for all human beings is part of being human. Which doesn’t mean we have to share their opinionsMarcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
A good Roman Emperor was supposed to care for his subjects much as he might care for his children.
And indeed, it’s in caring for others that we derive much of our self-worth.
Although more than ever we have the capacity to care for others, social isolation and increasing polarization has taken us away from that reality.
The takeaway from this is simple: if you find yourself feeling sad, or otherwise not all the way whole, be kind to someone else.
Volunteer. Lend a shoulder to a crying friend. Donate to a worthy cause.
Helping others is sometimes the best way to help yourself – and heal a broken heart in the process.
In the same vein, Marcus believed that you should always try to offer sympathy to others instead of anger or outrage, both of which are poisonous and distract from your purpose.
When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
For those of you going through a breakup – try to extend this same sense of understanding to your ex-girlfriend.
Rather than being angry at her, try to see why she acted the way she did. Be kind, and be sympathetic to her plight.
Ultimately, you’re not doing it for her. You’re doing it for you so that you might heal your heart and soul.
5: Be Aware Of Your Thoughts
Your ability to control your thoughts—treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions—false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
With threads pulling him in all directions, Marcus had to always be aware of what was on his mind so he could use it in the way that best served him.
Today we find ourselves in a similar predicament – especially in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In your own life, you should always strive to be aware of what’s on your mind.
The way you think has a pronounced effect on how you feel. Negative thoughts like “I miss my ex” or “I can’t make it without her” can make you feel more unhappy than you already are.
Negative thinking in many cases is automatic – where we think the worst and suffer anxiety from it.
Moreover, we act in accordance with our thoughts. For example, if you keep thinking you miss your ex-girlfriend, you’re going to feel much more tempted to break no-contact, which is the opposite of what you should be doing.
By being aware of your thoughts and how they influence your actions, you can replace the negative triggers with positive thoughts – which is a topic I cover extensively in my article about breaking your ex-girlfriend addiction.
6: Don’t Agonize Over The Past Or Worry About The Future
The past and the future do not exist – there is only the present moment and it is afforded to all men, both good and bad, equallyMarcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
Most of your negative thoughts are about things you did in the past, while most of your stresses and worries are about things that will come in the future.
I’ve noticed this is especially bad after a breakup. You kick yourself for the things you screwed up during the relationship, and then worry about if you’ll get her back/if she’ll move on, etc.
In this case, both the past and the future hold nothing but negativity and you’d be better off letting go of both and focusing on being present.
The best way to do this is to breathe deeply several times if you catch yourself ruminating, and then refocus on whatever task you have at hand.
The more focused you are on what’s in front of you, the less you’ll think about the past or worry about the future.
7: Your Thoughts About Yourself Are More Important Than Other People’s Thoughts About You
Don’t worry about what other people think of you. Everything is forgotten given enough time.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
Ultimately, what everyone thinks of you is unimportant.
Too many people obsess about what everyone else thinks about them. Social media definitely doesn’t help with this either.
For a lot of us (including myself, until recently) there’s a hovering phantom fear of what other people think that keeps us from doing what we want to do.
And guess what – ultimately these people don’t matter. In his position as Roman Emperor, Marcus constantly faced the thoughts of others. However, he wisely observed that dwelling on the thoughts of others is foolish for two reasons.
- The thoughts of others will derail you from your path
- What other people think of you is more a reflection of that person then it is of you.
So if your ex-girlfriend hates your guts and doesn’t want you to succeed, chances are it’s more a reflection of her own bitter nature than it is of you.
So don’t worry about others. Concentrate on controlling your own thoughts as I’ve already talked about.
8: No One Can Get Under Your Skin Without Your Permission
Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed if you haven’t been.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
As Marcus wisely realized, it’s your thoughts about the situations around you that cause you pain, not the situation itself.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, you might feel angry and shout.
But – if you consciously choose not to be angry and ignore what you’re assuming is a slight, your life will continue on unharmed.
The same is true of your ex-girlfriend. Imagine she says something nasty about you. You have two options.
Either you lose your cool, and spend an entire evening fuming, or you shrug it off and move on.
While it’s tempting to want to feel insulted by her behavior, if you choose to not be offended, then you simply won’t be.
In fact, when you shrug off what other people do with no visible reaction, they are much less apt to try to get under your skin a second time.
In other words – no one can hurt you without your permission, which is perhaps the most powerful piece of advice I can give you.
And guess what happens when you stop giving others permission to hurt you?
You get a massive boost to your outcome independence, which is the single most attractive trait to women.
9: Use Your Rational Brain – Not Your Emotional One
Try to see things for how they really are – the desires of others, the forces of nature, etc. Nothing is more conducive to spiritual growth than seeing things as they are. What qualities do I then need to bear at this thing? And those things that are inconsequential- I should, in turn, treat them as such and them go.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
When you think emotionally, bad things happen.
To be happy as a man, you need to instead embrace your logical brain.
That means really examining your own life, as well as the people, places, circumstances, and thoughts that make it up.
Giving in to random emotional thoughts distracts you from your purpose, and will ultimately make you unhappy.
My advice for thinking rationally and not emotionally is to question your own thoughts.
For example, if you feel the need to reach out to her, see if you can find a truly logical reason to.
In this case, missing her, or being lonely isn’t a logical reason to, now is it?
Apply the same standard to the rest of the thoughts in your life and you will prosper. I promise you.
10: You Must Be Your Own Savior
Write off your hopes, and if your well-being matters to you, be your own savior while you can.Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (Hayes Translation)
No one is coming to make your dreams possible for you.
No one is going to build that business for you.
No one is going to ask out that cute girl at the gym for you.
No one is going to keep you in shape.
Everything you want in life relies on you going out and getting it.
There’s no rescue coming. If you want to live the life you’ve always dreamed about, you need to go out and get it. Because no one is going to hand it to you.
Never lose sight of this.
Forget about what other people think.
Control your thoughts and choose a rational approach as opposed to an emotional one.
Embrace your purpose and embrace the change that comes with it.
Because ultimately, if you fail to do so, no one is coming to help you.
You will be left behind.
A footnote in history.
So get going.