When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu
What does that mean?
Once again, we have another Twitter-friendly shortened quote. The more complete version is “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
What is it that you are lacking in your life? Conversely, what do you have in your life which you take for granted? About what could, or even should, you be rejoicing? Your health, your relative wealth, your friends, your family? Even if you have none of those, you could rejoice in the quiet and tranquility.
So many of us focus on what we do not have, and overlook or even ignore what we do have. At least until it’s too late, right? I’m sure it never happened to you, but you see it in movies and TV shows all the time. There’s even a song about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.
But this quote is about realizing that everything that is important to you, you already have all that you need. Perhaps not all you want, but all that is necessary. And in that, you have all that matters in the world, everything else is just extra flash and dazzle.
Why is acknowledging the things which you have important?
By definition, no one has perfect health, or perfect anything for that matter. I’m working on the first cold of winter as I write this. Does that mean I should become unhappy at my misery? I suppose I could, but it wouldn’t help much, would it?
Others have greater health challenges to face, but they have today, and that is something in which one can rejoice. What else do you need, not want, but need? Food, shelter, the basics of survival. These things are also things which tend to be taken for granted, again until they are gone.
I believe that the point of the quote is to remember what we have, to acknowledge it, and what it means to us. Even if it’s not the nicest, or best, or most modern or recent. It’s what we have, and it’s better than nothing. We need to remember this, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have what we have, as there are plenty of others with even less.
Where can I apply this in my life?
The attitude of gratitude helps anchor us, to remind us of what we do have, and how precious it is to us. Even my beat up old car is a comfort that the loaner I briefly used was not. Having it back returned a certain level of familiarity and certainty, even if the loaner was in better shape, and probably worth more as well.
We all have things in our lives for which we could acknowledge as being worthwhile. The question is will we do so, or will we continue to search after things we don’t have? That is a decision we need to make as individuals, and will be based on our values and desires.
And that is the real question. What will we do? Will we work to be content with what we have, or will we make ourselves miserable by lusting after more? Note that I differentiate between a motivational desire, the desire to do better, and a self-harming lust after that which you neither need nor actually desire, except as a trophy.
If you want more money, do you want it for it’s own sake, do you want it to buy things you don’t need so that you might show off, or are you setting up an endowment for a charity to help others? Only one of those I would consider a beneficial motivational desire. The others are the antithesis of this quote, at least in my opinion.
What you have today is probably much different than what you had 10 years ago. While I have the same wife, the same car and the same house, my kids have grown up in that time. The spare cash I used to have now goes to feed and clothe them, and towards their future education.
I could grumble about what I might have had, or the lifestyle I had before I had a family. But when I look at what I have, I am grateful for that, even though it might not be a straight-up swap for the affluence and lifestyle I might otherwise have had.
Time will also change our desires and goals. At one point in time I wanted to build a custom car. Now I’m working (slowly) on modifying a pair of cars instead. And I rejoice in the simple fun of welding something back on that fell off, or working on projects with my kids.
There were a couple points in my life where a different decision would have lead to a different life. I do not waste my time regretting the choices I made. They are done, and I am working on being content with what I have, and trying to remember to rejoice in those things. It beats lamenting that which I do not have, and it takes less time, too!
One day at a time is how we all live. Today, nothing is lacking. There are things that would be nice, but I’m doing OK. And the world is mine, for I have all I need. How is life treating you?
From: Twitter, @_inspirational_
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/laotzu393061.html
Photo by Martin Cathrae