Confucius said: “Set your heart on the way; act in accordance with virtue; hold fast to goodness; enjoy the arts.” (1) (2)
No matter what path you choose to pursue in life, the more strongly you dedicate yourself to it, the more likely you are to achieve fulfillment.
The first and most important part of this process is to fully commit yourself to your path. That means putting aside your doubts and taking the leap. There will always be risks with whatever path you choose to take. You need to make sure beforehand that you have thought them through and are ready to deal with them if or when they appear.
The second part is to constantly strive for excellence in your pursuit. That means being willing to put in the long, hard hours that others are unwilling to put in so that you make a contribution that truly stands out.
The third part is to make sure that you stay true to your personal values and principles. The more you compromise your ethics in the pursuit of your path, the less satisfied you will feel when you reach the end of it. Your sense of achievement will be badly tainted.
The fourth and final part is to stay fresh through regular exercise of both your body and mind. Too much work not only leads to unnecessary tiredness but also to tunnel vision. Allow yourself some time out to restore your spirits and perspective!
This article features a translation of Chapter 6 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.
(1) See 2.4 for Confucius’s description of how he progressed along his own personal development path.
(2) Confucius is probably referring to the “Six Arts” (六藝) here: namely, ritual, music, calligraphy, mathematics, archery, and charioteering.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.