“A man of happiness is consistent in his steps, not disorderly,” wrote Confucius in the year 510 B.C. In our days, technology has rendered life less demanding in physical effort, opening the door to endless achievement or overwhelming conformity.
The multiplication of choices has increased individual capacity to make right decisions or colossal mistakes. “Foolish men do things without knowing their purpose,” remarked Confucius, “but chaos is not the way; be observant, choose the beneficial, and try to attain it.” From his writings, I have extracted the following four practical recommendations:
1.- DEFINE YOUR LONG-TERM INTERESTS. No formula can guarantee happiness, but following the fashion of the day is unlikely to bring peace of mind to anyone. Think of the people you know who are highly satisfied with their achievements. Is it not true that those are, almost without exception, individuals who have been pursuing difficult goals year after year?
2.- ACTIVITY BEATS IMMOBILITY EVERY TIME. “Fortune comes from turning tireless thought into faithful practice,” wrote Confucius further. Twenty-five centuries ago, crying and wailing were as much of a waste of time as they are today. No matter how difficult your situation, taking determined action is the best alternative. Start doing something today to improve your state of affairs. A ship in motion keeps advancing even if there is no wind for a while.
3.- FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS. Low-cost electronic media are making traditional education obsolete. Nowadays, you can learn almost anything you want, no matter where you live. Assess your abilities, choose your field, and develop your expertise. As Confucius put it, “learning knows no rank and no end.” Concentrate your efforts on cultivating your best qualities and they will take you as far as you wish to go.
4.- LEARN TO SHRUG YOUR SHOULDERS AT NONSENSE. “Wisdom does not fret and knows when to stand quiet,” Confucius reminded his disciples. Life is full of nonsense and inconvenience. Even if you reside in a prime area, you will be caught in traffic jams from time to time. You will always have to deal with individuals who criticize you unfairly no matter what you do. Getting angry at other people’s folly is a waste of resources. Move on and work at building a better life for yourself.
Everybody’s time on earth is limited. An individual’s best chance to attain happiness lies in his efficient use of resources and opportunities. Define your long-term ambitions and pursue them with passion. Happiness is not inertia, but purposeful motion. Become what Confucius defined as “a man of endless craving, who never tires of learning,” and you will be on your way.
JOHN VESPASIAN writes about rational living and is the author of the books “When everything fails, try this” (2009), “Rationality is the way to happiness” (2009) and “The philosophy of builders” (2010). He has resided in New York, Madrid, Paris and Munich. His stories reflect the values of entrepreneurship, tolerance and self-reliance. See http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com a blog about rational living.