These words were written by Marcus Aurelius nearly 2000 years ago. They perfectly describe what it means to live a good life. It’s not what we say, but what we do that defines our character and the life we live.
Today’s world is obsessed with drama. People love to talk and be heard, soaking up all the attention. Everyone wants to be the person with the last word.
People will have endless debates amongst their friends or colleagues about what the best or “right” is. Is Amazon an ethical business? Is Donald Trump a good leader? What’s the best way to express love? What are the best techniques for getting ahead in your career?
You can argue till the end of time about these questions, but where would that get you?
Talking about those things won’t move you forward in any way. They won’t help you start an ethical business, or become a good leader, or get any better at expressing love.
The truth is, the only thing that will move you forward in life is taking action.
With this quote, Marcus is reminding himself to lead by example and take action. The politicians and theoretical philosophers of his time could argue day and night about what was good and evil. But for Marcus, these discussions were meaningless without real action.
If he wanted to be a good person and live a good life, he knew he couldn’t just talk about it. He had to live it every day, to take actions that were good and fulfilling. Only then, through those actions, would a good life and character be formed.
Nearly 2000 years later, we can apply this quote to our own lives, by taking the right actions. The “right” actions are simply those that align with the person you wish to be and the life that you wish to live.
- One becomes a leader by taking actions of leadership. Putting their team’s needs above their own, inspiring them, motivating them, all the while demonstrating empathy. If you want to be in a leadership position in your career, do what a leader does.
- A fit body is built through exercise and a healthy diet. Occasionally reading about fitness tips is helpful, but sitting on the couch imagining yourself with a six-pack gets you nowhere. Focus more on the actions that will actually make you fit: regular exercise and healthy eating.
- Someone who truly loves their partner won’t just say “I love you.” They’ll demonstrate it as often as they can, with things like acts of service, listening, and spending quality time. If you want to show love to your spouse, significant other, or just a friend, do things that are loving.
You can spend your time thinking or talking about what the best thing to do is. You can daydream and procrastinate and beat around the bush all day long.
Or, you can do something more proactive: take actions that align with the type of life you want to live. To act in a way that embodies the character and wisdom and goodness of the person you want to be.