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Newsletter - December 2021

Guided by the Opinion of Others?

 “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled.” (Lao Tzu)


How often we look over our shoulders. What do others think of us? To take direction from what we think others think is a never-ending game. What’s more, fulfilling ourselves will most likely get lost in the shuffle. Not the way to go. (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 44.)


If you think about it, we spend much of our time trying to fulfill expectations. We have expectations of ourselves, we have expectations of others, and others have expectations of us. What’s more, expectations come and go. So, if we “look to others for fulfillment,” we will continually get pulled this way and that way depending on what we think they think. Far too complicated. More importantly, with this approach we will “never truly be fulfilled.”


The problem is that fulfillment is not the same thing as meeting expectations – yours or anybody else’s. Expectations are not the point. Fulfilling yourself is the point. And where do you need to look to do this? The answer is you need to look inside yourself, not outside, because fulfillment is an inside job.


I think fulfillment is discovering your song and singing it in harmony with the world around you. This involves two things and both of them involve listening. First, listening to yourself to discover the talents you have been born with, and then developing them. Second, listening to the world around you to discover the music that’s already there. Only then are you ready to add your own unique notes to the music and sing in harmony. If you don’t listen to yourself, you’ll never discover your song. If you don’t listen to the world, you’ll never hear the music. In short, if you don’t listen, all you will create is noise and confusion.


An example of what makes it hard to listen is that, like most of us, I find myself continually bombarded with messages from the advertising industry. It seems all the messages have one underlying purpose, and that is to sell me something. One way the industry works is to paint a picture of a lifestyle that is supposedly better than mine, and then not-so-subtly suggest that if I buy certain products or services then I will acquire this lifestyle. In other words, the industry relies on me “looking to others for fulfillment.” So, how do I handle this?


Maybe there’s a better approach, but my response is two-fold. First, I try to avoid being bombarded with advertising messages in the first place. Easy ways include turning off the TV or the internet. Other ways include finding natural instead of man-made surroundings. Second, if I do need to acquire some product or service, I tend to approach the task with my defenses up, as it were. I try to look inside myself to determine what I really need, rather than accept someone else’s idea of what that might be. Then I research the alternatives as dispassionately as I can. Advantages versus disadvantages, pros versus cons. Although thought often gets in the way, for once, here is a situation where it can be put to good use!


What’s an example where peer pressure, or comparing yourself with someone else, influenced you to do or buy something you didn’t need? If you’ve developed ways to successfully manage this, please share them with the rest of us!

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, you can get in touch with me by:


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(In Harmony with the Tao: A Guided Journey into the Tao Te Ching is available as an e-book or as a paperback from your nearest independent book store, from White Cloud Press, from, or from

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