Marcus Aurelius’s joke was that no one ever came to grief “ignoring what goes on in other people’s souls.” He meant that if you want to reduce the amount of stress and drama in your life, mind your own business. Because every one of us wastes far too much time thinking about, commenting on, and gossiping over, the state of other people’s marriages, other people’s ethics, other people’s intentions, other people, period. As if what they do in their homes and in their heads is of our concern.
And it’s not just that all of this is intrusive and outside the “circle of control,” it’s that while we’re doing it, we’re not doing something else. That is, not focusing on what goes on in our own souls. “If you won’t keep track of what your own soul’s doing,” Marcus asks, “how can you not be unhappy?”
The key to happiness is minding your own business. That means getting your nose out of other people’s and sticking it where it belongs: On sniffing out your inconsistencies, where you can be better, and where you’re falling short. Starting today.