It’s reassuring that even one of history’s biggest personalities had trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
In his philosophical writings collected in “Meditations,” Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote a passage portraying an inner dialogue one can imagine him having in his royal bed at the crack of dawn.
It’s a reflection of his Stoic beliefs, which were centered on the power over one’s own emotions coupled with the acceptance of things beyond one’s control.
Next time you’re about to hit the snooze button on your morning alarm, remember what Marcus wrote to himself, which has been translated by Gregory Hays:
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?”
— But it’s nicer in here…
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?
— But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?
Marcus ruled from 161 to 180 AD and wrote what became “Meditations” sometime during the last decade of his life.
New research suggests that Marcus’ technique of “self-talk,” and in particular that he used the second-person pronoun “you” instead of “I,” can be an effective motivational strategy. Researchers speculate that “it cues memories of receiving support and encouragement from others, especially in childhood.” Keep that in mind the next time you need a boost to start your day.
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