At first glance this quote seems to deliver advice bordering on silly- but the words are actually something we should all take to heart. I have been a therapist for nearly twenty years. During this time I have seen many hundreds of people come through my office door in crisis. Often times it is a crisis of their own creation. Perhaps they are addicted to alcohol, have had an affair , or have gotten fired because they were caught using company funds inappropriately. Many times they seem shell shocked, truly unbelieving of the place they are at in their lives. The most common emotion expressed is exasperation at their own actions.
Not one time in my twenty year practice have I heard someone say any of the following.
- “I planned to have alcoholism take over my life.”
- “I left my house Tuesday morning and decided that I was going to have an affair with someone.”
- “I knew from the day I was hired, that I wanted to embezzle money from this company.”
I believe that as human beings we are intrinsically good. In our deepest natures, we strive to love others, not hurt them. We desire to behave in ways that bring reward and praise, not shame and punishment. We want to love and be loved. How then, do so many end up on the wrong side of happiness?
The answer is simple. One small step at a time. When we compromise our highest self just a little bit here and a tiny bit there, at first it seems inconsequential. But we quickly find that once we step over the line, the next day its twice as easy to step over again. We move from light to shadow usually not with a sprint, but instead with small quiet steps that go almost unnoticed. Lao Tzu just wanted us to notice.