It is said that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is attributed to Lao-Tzu, a brilliant Chinese philosopher who wrote a lot about the Tao. More correctly, the proper translation from Chinese is “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
I love both of these statements. At first glance, they might seem to have almost identical meanings. They are thought to be interchangeable but in fact, each is quite different from the other. As a hypnotist, accessing the subconscious for the purpose of positive change, I understand how essential it is to use exactly the right words to bring about the desired result. And as a writer, I love to play with words and can’t help but notice these kinds of subtleties in language.
Let’s take a look at the less-well-known but correct translation first. “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” This is such a beautiful statement. It’s filled with optimism and hope. It’s about looking at where you are, right here, right now, accepting what is, accepting where you’re standing in this moment and not looking behind you. It’s a welcome reassurance and comfort about the necessity of leaving the past right where it belongs.
It’s about seeing what needs to change in yourself or your life. It’s about preparing for forward movement and for growth and change. It’s brilliant. It’s exciting. It’s empowering. It’s filled with anticipation.
It leads straight to the more widely known version: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is also very beautiful. It teaches patience, determination and perseverance in the face of a goal that might seem too far away. It teaches gentleness in the art of change. You don’t have to do it all at once. And in fact, there’s something to be said for enjoying the journey one step at a time and not charging full steam ahead in the face of life-altering moments and experiences.
That beautiful sentence offers hope and encouragement to anyone who is on a difficult path, especially when there is the temptation to give up, or not even start in the first place.
Being aware of what’s beneath your feet, and what’s at that thousand-mile point somewhere up ahead will help you to decide where to place your foot and take that first step, and all the others that follow. The first step begins taking you away from where you are now, from what lies beneath your feet.
And if you just keep lifting your foot and putting it down, one foot in front of the other, you will continue to move further away from where you are now, and with each step, a little closer to where you want to be.
Do not fear putting your foot down in the wrong place. There is no “wrong place”, only places of experiences or outcomes you hadn’t anticipated and if you are taken a little off the path, it’s okay. It just requires a course correction. Wandering off the path can sometimes happen if you keep looking down at your feet, rather than ahead at your destination but you can correct the problem. Keep your eyes focused on the destination; your feet will follow.
First: take a good look at what lies beneath your feet. Where are you now? What do you need to accept about your situation? What is your current situation? What do you want to change about it?
Second: It begins with that first step. Once you know your destination and you have a clear vision of it in your mind, lift a foot and set it down again. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and in time, you will be where you want to be.