Masters of Habit is a series of mini-biographies on the daily rituals and routines of great athletes, artists, and leaders.
Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. Known as the last of the “Five Good Emperors,” Aurelius was not born into power, but rather was adopted (his biological father died when he was three years old). Historians refer to him as a kind ruler who was incredibly loyal to his duty to serve the Roman Empire. 
As a boy, Aurelius was taught by various private tutors and he became particularly interested in philosophy. It is even said that he went so far as to take on the dress and behavior of a philosopher by sleeping on the floor at night. (Which, apparently, made his mother rather unhappy.)
We’ll never know for certain, but the story of his sleeping on the floor gives the impression that Aurelius had a natural curiosity and a desire to be a self-experimenter. If you told him, “Real philosophers sleep on the floor,” he wanted to try it out for himself.
This same thought process is evident in many of his later writings. Aurelius believed that philosophy wasn’t merely something to think about, but that it should also be practiced.
Today, Aurelius is perhaps best known for his collection of essays called Meditations. Although we don’t know many details about Marcus’ day-to-day life, Meditations offers a glimpse into his mind, his habits, and his approach to life. The very act of writing Meditations, which took him at least 10 years, is evidence to his commitment to habit, consistency, and improvement.
Many historians believe that Aurelius practiced writing as a daily habit, regardless of the circumstances. Some of his most famous passages were written from outposts and battlefields as he sought to expand the Roman Empire. It was through these essays that he shared his thoughts on how to balance the conflict of real life with the values of philosophy.
Below, you’ll find a range of quotes from Marcus Aurelius on philosophy, habits, and life.
Quotes from Marcus Aurelius
On fulfilling your duty…
On dealing with criticism…
On taking action…
On living a good life…
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
For more ideas, quotes, and musings from Marcus Aurelius, I highly recommend reading his book, Meditations. As far as we know, it was written mostly for his own self-improvement, so it doesn’t follow a rigid structure of any type. That said, the book is widely regarded as one of the greatest texts on Stoic philosophy and I think any reader would find something useful to take away from it.
James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares ideas for using behavior science to master your habits, improve your health, and do better work. For more ideas on how to increase your mental and physical performance, join his free newsletter.A version of this post originally appeared on JamesClear.com.