The Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius said “Just do the right thing. The rest does not matter”. But what is it for us to do the right thing? Forget about divine intervention and rewarding the virtuous in the afterlife. We will make our way philosophically – in other words, use reason instead of faith to justify our answers.
1. Peace of Mind
The thing about morality is that there is no universal law that helps a person decides what is right or wrong. As a result, we listen to the voices of our heads and create our own moral code which may differ from our other people. The problem arises when our approval-seeking behaviors compromise our own moral rules. The Stoic philosopher Seneca has something to say about our tendency to adopt popular views.
“If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich… Nature’s wants are slight; the demands of opinion are boundless” Letters from a Stoic
It is for this very reason that we lose our peace of mind. If we stick to our own “templates” of morality, we narrow down our option to only just one – OUR OWN MORAL CODE.
2. Long lasting happiness.
It feels good to do what is right. It’s even better when it is deeply rooted in what we firmly believe to be right. Having our own moral code allows us to access this kind of pleasure 24/7. Not the kind of pleasure we get outwardly from other people which is short-lived.
“People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like.
By going within.
Nowhere you can go is more peaceful—more free of interruptions—than your own soul” Marcus Aurelius
3. It gives you a lifelong purpose.
Doing the right thing is simple but it’s not easy. We live in the age of social media where popular views largely influence our actions. Sometimes it takes a lot of will to be able to make decisions that are purely based on our moral code. The good news is we can make this struggle a lifelong challenge. Will is nothing but a mental muscle that can be strengthened by constant practice.
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be, be one.” Marcus Aurelius
4. Simplifies the decision-making process.
A moral code is like having a database of truth you set for yourself. The more you get into the habit of doing what is right the more you get familiarized with your database. If a situation presents itself it’s a lot easier to decide because you mastered your own moral code.
5. It gives you identity.
Know thyself. The philosopher Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living for. It’s very important to constantly challenge our system of beliefs to determine what is true to us. When we know what we value we can direct more of energy to what matters to us. Not only that when people know our moral code – the things we value and believe – there are more willing to give that extra space. We naturally give people respect people who set their rules and boundaries.
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