Confucius (551 – 479 BC) was a Chinese politician and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn time period. He is known for his words of wisdom on subjects involving morality, correctness, justice and sincerity.
The thoughts of Confucius have influenced societies and their leaders for over two thousand years, and they are just as relevant today as they ever were.
“Study the past, if you would define the future” – Confucius
If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s ok. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.
You should always aim for your highest goals, and do not be despondent if you don’t quite reach them. It is better to at least try, than not to try at all.
If you don’t quite reach your goal, at least you will still have achieved more than when you started.
Furthermore, if you achieve something different from your intended goal, then you have still been successful.
Unfortunately many people are lacking in ambition, and for them, any kind of success becomes impossible.
If you hate a person, then you’re defeated by them.
You achieve nothing useful through hating someone. The emotion of hate is strong and more harmful to yourself than the person you hate. It can consume you.
Furthermore, if you apply hate to a person, then you are allowing your thoughts to give the idea of them attention. If they have your attention, then they are successfully distracting you from more worthy contemplation.
If a person is not worthy of your attention or has wronged you, then better to forget them than hate them. In this way, you are maintaining your self-respect.
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
This quote points out that a seemingly impossible task, one that appears too huge to manage, can still be achieved by beginning with small steps. You should not be discouraged by the size of the task.
If you want to change something great, then small changes will be a start. They will make a difference, however small, and will be steps in the right direction.
The noble-minded are calm and steady. Little people are forever fussing and fretting.
This points out that wise people remain calm and unflustered at all times, even in difficult situations. “Fussing and fretting’ is not a wise reaction. It has no benefit, and little can be achieved.
Being ‘calm and steady’ allows for clear thinking and planning so that a difficult situation can be considered, understood, and drawn to a successful conclusion.
‘Fussing and ‘fretting’ leads to confusion and an inability to prioritise or plan efficiently.
If your plan is for one year, then plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.
For a short term plan to succeed, then you only need to make provision for that short length of time. Therefore you should only invest in a short term idea. For example, planting rice will feed people for a year. The grain will only take a year to grow and will provide more grain.
For a medium term plan, you have to consider how you will be able to maintain your plan for an increased length of time. You must invest in a medium term growth idea. For example, trees will take longer to grow, but they will also last longer, and will provide fruit every year.
But in the long term, this quote highlights the importance of education. A long-term plan can only succeed if the people inheriting the plan can properly understand it in order to continue it and improve upon it.
When your consider your goal, you must always contemplate the length of time, and the type of investment required to achieve the goal, and then factor this into your plan of action.
The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his action.
This implies that a wise person will use their own actions and experience to exemplify what they have to say, rather than speak on a subject on which they have no previous experience. In doing so, they will gain the respect of the people they are speaking with, leading or instructing.
Also, by acting first, they will already know the result of those actions. They will also have gained an understanding of the most efficient way to carry out that action. It would be foolish to instruct someone on a deed that may not even be achievable.
Even if the actions of the wise person did not result in success, then it is still a benefit to those he speaks with, so that they do not commit the same mistakes.
Silence is a true friend who never betrays.
If you have a thought or knowledge of something, about which you do not want other people to know, then the only true friend you can rely on is silence. In other words, do not tell anyone. Then this knowledge cannot be passed on.
Silence can also be beneficial in situations of conflict and argument. Remaining silent can empower you, leaving the opponent with no one to argue with.
Silence also gives you time to properly consider your argument before expressing it. It will stop you from reacting inappropriately with emotional kneejerk reactions instead of considered. analytical responses.
The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute. The man who does not ask is a fool for life.
The word fool, merely means ignorance. We are all ignorant of everything we do not yet know. Therefore, if you ask a question, you display an ignorance, only until you have the answer. You will be able to learn and expand your knowledge by admitting an ignorance.
Asking the question may make you feel briefly foolish because others will already know the answer. It is even harder when they already expect you to know. But this feeling will pass quickly.
It is far more foolish not to ask, because then you will always be ignorant and you will never learn.
When anger rises, think of the consequences.
This is telling us not to react instinctively, but to give thought to our reactions. It tells us to understand the consequences of reacting in anger before we react, and asks us to evaluate whether the angry reaction is actually worth the consequences, which it seldom is.
You have a choice over your responses. You can choose not to be angry.
Things that are done, it is needless to speak about. Things that are past, it is needless to blame.
This is a two part quote. The first part explains that speaking about a bad thing in the past has no benefit.
The second part, similarly, explains that there is no benefit in blaming anyone for a bad thing that is in the past. There is no value to be gained from bringing up the past and laying blame.
If you do not recount bad things of the past to others, then they are less likely to mimic or repeat those bad actions, or proportion blame onto figures of the past.
Remonstrating about past deeds takes time and energy that could be diverted towards more virtuous and more beneficial pursuits.
More Confucius quotes: