Be careful what you wish for


This week I would like to offer you an ancient Chinese folk tale with a timeless message:

“There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.”

What a twit. He should have just realised how powerful he was in the first place. We’d never never be as foolish as that… would we?!

Our culture is very good at getting us to believe that we’re lacking in some way. It’s hard to deflect all the messages saying we need a new phone, a more toned body, more money, more mini breaks, more influence, another box set, a new wardrobe, a selfie with Harry Stiles… Amidst all of that, it’s easy to forget to be grateful for what you’ve got right now.

Take a moment to count ten things on your fingers and thumbs that you’re grateful for and notice how it makes you feel.

I actually do this exercise at the end of each day, and I’ve found it’s made a dramatic difference to how positively I view my life and how peaceful I feel before I go to sleep.

I did it just now and it put a big smile on my face!


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