A Roman Emperor’s advice on managing expectations

Can there be anybody who can feel more entitled than the most powerful person on Earth?

The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once wrote in his dairy, ‘Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.’

Here is the world’s most powerful man during his era reminding himself to keep his expectations low. Despite his incredible might and stature, the Roman emperor learnt to check his expectations on how he would be treated. Marcus Aurelius was a great stoic. In line with the tenets of stoic philosophy, he understood that he could not control how people behaved towards him. Instead, he could only control his expectations of that behaviour.

We do not control how we would be treated. We only control our expectations. Keeping our expectations modest makes us resilient to disappointment.

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