Marcus Aurelius, the stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, used to regularly remind himself never to seek praise. He should simply complete a job because it was his duty to do so, and that was enough.
Gold, riches, and fame should not be the driver – they can be enjoyed, but never the sole purpose of doing something. You complete a task because you are a human being, and it is your job to function well in society, live in harmony with nature, and do the right thing.
There’s a lot we can take from this. If, like Marcus says we aim never to seek praise, could we end up living a happier life?
Know That It Is the Right Thing to Do
Marcus said that we should do our job and simply be pleased with ourselves just for doing it; this is what we can control. Our actions will directly cause a result.
You chisel away at a rock and eventually you’ll create a statue.
Whereas praise from others, is external; this is something that we cannot control. You can’t make people applaud you.
Whether people like the marble statue you spent hours crafting is up to them. We can’t make someone like it. And we should’t.
The lesson here is not to obsess about what you cannot control: praise. Just focus on what you can: your actions. Know that as long as you have done your best and the right thing, that is all that matters.
Praise Won’t Make it Any More Beautiful
Marcus related this thinking to that of an emerald. Praise doesn’t make an emerald any more or less beautiful – it already is beautiful and will continue to be so, with or without our adoration.
What about gold, a flower, or nature? Do they lose their beauty if they are not praised continuously?
We too, should be like the beauty found in nature. We should see ourselves as an emerald; something that already is beautiful and always will be beautiful, with or without praise.
Praise Is Not Always Good
Praise is nice; it makes us feel good; it’s comforting. But this shouldn’t be our driving force for doing something.
It’s transient and fleeting, and we must take responsibility for making ourselves feel good. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
Aim to be beautiful with or without praise. Do your job; do the right thing; and be content with that.