One of the notable things about Marcus Aurelius’ work, Meditations, is that it was not intended for public consumption. This timeless piece was something he wrote for himself. This work shows Aurelius holding himself to higher pursuits such as self-discipline, humility, patience, and empathy; whilst holding the position of emperor, he reminds himself of the importance of remaining in the present, turning obstacles into opportunities and responsibility. An emperor of the most powerful empire at that time reminding himself of humility and patience, is a rarity and something I have always fascinated me.
After hitting the mid-point of my internship at CIPS (Centre for Indonesian Policy Studies), I write with a unique perspective that carries the insights of experience and prospects for the rest of my time here and the future ahead. My time here has only been enhanced because of my influence by Marcus Aurelius’ reflections. When Aurelius wrote Meditations, he was looking within himself for strength and resiliency. I attribute my success here in Jakarta to such philosophy.
My experience in Jakarta has been nothing short of fantastic, and it’s all because of the way I’ve chosen to approach it. Rather than relying on external factors to dictate my happiness, I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on the positive aspects of my life here. The people I’ve met have become like family to me, from the supportive and friendly co-workers who surround me to the new acquaintances who have become some of my closest friends. Through these relationships, I’ve discovered the source of my strength and learned to define my beliefs and principles in practice. Even when faced with adversity, I welcome it as a helping hand in my personal growth. I am filled with gratitude for this experience and the meaningful connections I have made here.
I hope you read this blog not as me telling you something but as something I tell and whisper to myself.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
- Your Thoughts Determine Your Reality.
Marcus Aurelius believed that our thoughts have tremendous power to shape our reality. He understood that our inner dialogue, how we speak to ourselves, has a profound effect on how we show up in the world. Stoicism teaches the discipline of self-control and acceptance. We do not control the external world or even truths; what we do have control over is ourselves and how we interpret and be in it. Our mindset determines everything. Make no mistake, your biggest enemy is yourself.
Ryan Holiday, in his book Ego Is the Enemy, argues that our problems often derive from our own ego rather than external events. Mindset determines all. Our inner dialogue, how we speak to ourselves, decides how we show up in the world. Stoicism also teaches the discipline of self-control and acceptance. We do not control the external world or even truths, what we do have control over is ourselves and how we interpret and be in it.
If we think positively and focus on the good in our lives, we’ll be happier and more content. If we dwell on negative thoughts and focus on what’s wrong, we’ll be unhappy and dissatisfied. By recognizing the power of our thoughts, we can learn to control them and create a more positive reality for ourselves.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
2. You Must Define Yourself, or the World Will Do it for You.
Another important lesson from Marcus Aurelius is the importance of defining ourselves. He believed that we should not let the world define us or our values. Instead, we should determine our own values and live according to them. This means that we need to take responsibility for our lives and not blame others for our problems. Taking full responsibility for ourselves confidently requires knowing ourselves. Knowing your principles, having fully formed your ground on which you stand in the world whilst also maintaining an open mind garners respect from others, and strength from within.
Trailblazers in history, like Rosa Parks or Frida Kahlo, defined themselves beyond what society told them. Parks defined herself as someone who would not tolerate segregation and thus inspired movements in her name. Kahlo painted and cultivated art that challenged social norms, and celebrated her unique identity. We choose how we react to the world around us and that we have the power to shape our own lives. By defining ourselves and our values, we can live with purpose and intention, and create a life that is true to who we are.
“Whatever anyone does or says, I must be emerald and keep my colour.” ― Marcus Aurelius
3. Welcome Adversity, It Is the Stone on Which Sharpens You.
Finally, Marcus Aurelius believed that adversity is a necessary part of life and that we should welcome it. He wrote, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This means that the obstacles we face in life can help us to grow and become better people. By facing our challenges head-on, we can learn from them and become stronger. Marcus Aurelius believed that adversity was an opportunity to practice our virtues, such as courage and resilience.
One of the most famous examples of someone who embraced adversity as an opportunity for personal growth was Nelson Mandela. During his 27 years in prison, Mandela was faced with numerous challenges and obstacles that would have broken a lesser person. But instead of letting his circumstances define him, Mandela used his time in prison as an opportunity to reflect on his life and his values.
He spent his days reading, studying, and writing, and even managed to earn a law degree while in prison. Mandela also found ways to connect with his fellow prisoners, even though they were from different backgrounds and had different political beliefs.
When he was finally released from prison in 1990, Mandela emerged as a transformed person, with a deep commitment to forgiveness, reconciliation, and social justice. He went on to become the first black president of South Africa, and played a crucial role in dismantling the country’s system of apartheid.
Throughout his life, Mandela demonstrated the kind of courage and resilience that Marcus Aurelius wrote about. He faced his challenges head-on, using them as opportunities to grow and become a better person. And in doing so, he inspired millions of people around the world to do the same.
Marcus Aurelius’s stoic philosophy left us with many valuable lessons. Following his advice, I learned to control my thoughts, define myself, and welcome adversity. These lessons are just as relevant today as they were in ancient Rome, and they can help us to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
In conclusion, my time as an intern at CIPS has been a remarkable experience that has enriched me both professionally and personally. Through my work at CIPS, I have gained a deeper understanding of Indonesian policy issues and have been able to contribute to the organization’s mission to promote economic freedom and social welfare.
Equally important, my time in Jakarta has been enhanced by the lessons of Marcus Aurelius that I have applied to my work and personal life. I have learned that my thoughts determine my reality, that I must define myself, that adversity is an opportunity for growth, and that people are complex and multidimensional. By following these lessons, I have been able to stay focused on my goals, overcome obstacles, and develop stronger relationships with my colleagues and friends in Jakarta.
In the end, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a fantastic organization and for the lessons of Marcus Aurelius that have guided me through this journey. I look forward to carrying these lessons with me as I continue my career and life beyond this internship.