Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the path of goodness

path of goodness

子曰:「不仁者,不可以久處約,不可以長處樂。仁者安仁,知者利仁。」
Confucius said: “A person who lacks goodness cannot endure adversity or enjoy happiness for long. A person who possesses goodness finds contentment in it; a wise person profits from it.”

How to keep going when you’re on the point of giving up because the odds are stacked against you? How to maintain your zest for life when all the bright and sparkling objects you’ve accumulated as a result of your success and wealth have lost their shine? In other words, how do you stay balanced when you’re being buffeted by powerful winds from all sides?

For Confucius, the answer was to follow the path of goodness every day of your life. Goodness involves much more than being kind to other people; it means making the right choices and taking the right actions spontaneously without even having to think about the what and why.

Naturally, goodness features an ethical or moral element that guides your decisions and behavior. But it also provides a sense of meaning that imbues your life with purpose and enables you to enjoy even the most seemingly mundane events – no matter whether it’s greeting someone with a smile on your way to work in the morning or taking the trash out before you go to bed.

In other words, pursuing the path of goodness is about taking whatever life decides to throw at you – the good and the bad – in your stride and making the most out of it.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 2 of Book 4 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 4 here.

I took this image at the Taipei Confucius Temple.

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