Excerpt from the Book of Tao
He who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wide.
He who conquers others has power of muscles;
He who conquers himself is strong.
He who is contented is rich.
He who is determined has strength of will.
He who does not lose his center endures.
He who dies yet his power remains has long life.
I find this teaching to be a perpetually moving one for me. It speaks to the power of knowing thyself. In order to act in this insane, hyperactive world, it is necessary to act independently of anyone else’s expectations, intentions, or even limits. The excerpt begins by talking about “knowing others.” Being a keen observer will take you far in life–don’t get me wrong-but if you do not know thyself well, you will always over or underestimate your own abilities. In this way, you will either miss some important opportunities, or take on too much and fall short of personal expectations. It becomes so necessary to understand how much you can handle and take a step back when you become overwhelmed.
At school, I often try to involve myself in too many clubs, organizations, or extracurriculars and I end up overstimulating myself. I then suffer, as a result, from sleep deprivation or exhaustion. Recently, however, I weeded out one or two “unnecessary” activities that I participated in solely to please others. Left with the activities I actually enjoyed, I suddenly had more time to excel (and stay awake) during those important moments of my day.
In this way, I conquered my need to please others. I determined my strength of will. I made decisions from my own center. And I grew to know myself. Before this transformation, my involvement looked impressive but wasn’t deep or built around my wants. This change has allowed me to embrace my passions and desires and act upon them in a more positive way.