Find Inner Peace: 4 Things You Can Start Doing Now

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you often find yourself troubled or concerned with things you have no control over? Do you wish you could break free from unnecessary worry and anxiety?

A worried or troubled mind makes it hard to live life fully. There are many ways to banish unnecessary worry from your life and find inner peace, and they all begin with rationality.

Here are some pointers on how you can find inner peace through rationality.

Finding Inner Peace Through Rationality

In the chaos of modern life, it’s all too easy to lose your inner peace and let worry consume your mind. But it needn’t be this way. You can always find inner peace by bringing yourself back to rationality. To do so, observe that the things you think are hurting you and realize that they’re actually not dangerous.

1) See Things as They Really Are

For example, perhaps you concern yourself with material goods or physical pleasures, and that concern takes away your peace of mind. There’s an easy solution: By stripping away the legends and false importance around physical things, you can see that none of them are worth worrying about. 

To that end, always see things for what they really are: For example, a sumptuous feast is nothing but dead plants and animals. Rich purple robes are simply sheep wool colored with shellfish blood. Making love is just rubbing organs together. Why should any of these things have any sway over your mind?

Similarly, what others think and do isn’t worth worrying about; there’s no reason to let anyone else disrupt your peace of mind. Instead, only concern yourself with what you think and do. Always consider whether your thoughts and actions in the present moment are fair and right.

2) Do Less, Do Your Duty, and Do Good Deeds

Another key to tranquility is to do less in life—to only do what’s necessary. If you stop to think, you’ll find that most of what you do and say isn’t necessary. Many of your assumptions are unnecessary as well and lead to these unnecessary thoughts and actions. 

These unnecessary thoughts and actions happen because it’s difficult—often impossible—to make perfect sense of the world. Any determinations that you make are subject to change, because you are subject to change.

Note that while you should do less overall, you should still stay focused on your duty, whatever it is that your nature drives you to do. Love your work, and earn your living by doing it, if you can.

Doing good deeds with no concern for yourself will also bring you happiness and peace. Always do what needs doing, regardless of your own fatigue, pain, or illness. Furthermore, never assume that something’s impossible because you find it hard at the moment. If something can be done by humans, then you can do it. 

3) Reject Anger

Another important facet of finding peace is rejecting anger. Anger is never helpful. Imagine that someone asked how to spell your name. Would you respond by getting riled up and shouting the letters at him? That wouldn’t help him to understand what you said and would likely provoke anger in return. Instead, you’d do the rational thing: Simply tell him how your name is spelled. 

Any task can be broken down into steps, just like a name can be broken down into letters. Therefore, you can approach every situation methodically and patiently, without anger.

When dealing with animals, objects, and situations, be patient and straightforward; anger won’t help you to handle any of them. Remember that you’re a rational being, and those things are not. 

Getting angry at another person’s misbehavior is equally pointless. Remember, logos drives you to seek what you think is best for you. Therefore, if someone misbehaves, it’s because he’s mistaken about what’s best. It then becomes your job to show him how and why he’s wrong, if you can—simply losing your temper won’t solve anything.

If you do ever get angry, it’s because you’ve forgotten two key points: 

  1. Nature ordains everything that happens.
  2. You aren’t responsible for what others do.

4) Reject Blame

Blame is just as useless as anger and will also disturb your peace. Simply put, there’s nobody to blame for anything—the gods are infallible, and human wrongs are due to accident or ignorance. 

When faced with someone else’s mistake, remember that you’ve also made mistakes. Furthermore, you’ve probably avoided similar mistakes to those the other person has made for bad reasons—such as fear of what others would think—rather than because your reason led you away from those mistakes. In other words, you have the potential to make the same mistakes as the people you’re upset with. 

For example, sometimes you get hurt while sparring. You don’t get angry about that, blame your partner, or suddenly consider your partner a violent and untrustworthy person. You’re simply more cautious when sparring with that person in the future. Bring that same mindset to other areas of your life: Forgive mistakes and just be more cautious after one happens. 

Also, just like you can forgive mistakes, you can meet any bad behavior with compassion. All you have to do is remember a time when you behaved that way yourself. What compelled you to act in such a way? 

Now, realize that this other person is also under some kind of compulsion. If possible, remove that compulsion and thereby fix the behavior. If that’s not possible, simply accept the behavior for what it is.

Final Thoughts on Serenity

You must have faith that there are order and a plan driving the world—that faith will bring you serenity. Nature is obedient, and the logos that rules it can do no evil. 

Whenever you’re jarred out of your serenity, there are two constants that you can always take comfort in:

  • Nothing can be done to you that isn’t decreed by nature.
  • No one can force you to do anything that goes against your personal nature.
Find Inner Peace: 4 Things You Can Start Doing Now

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  • Marcus Aurelius' teachings on Stoicism
  • How rational thinking can guide you through any hardship and allow you to endure any pain
  • Why you should be motivated by death rather than afraid of it

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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