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TCM Threads: Eastern Vs. Western Thinking
Reflection of quote in the book "From Strength to Strength"
“As we grow older in the West, we generally think we should have a lot to show for our lives—a lot of trophies. According to more Eastern thinking, this is backwards. As we age we shouldn’t accumulate more to represent ourselves but rather strip things away to find our true selves.” Arthur Brooks in his book From Strength to Strength
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this quote. Part of me resonates with the Western sentiment, as I’ve always aspired to acquire more knowledge, more experiences, and more stimulus out of life in the hopes of becoming a vast source of wisdom. I’ve always said that my dream is to be that grandparent one day that always has an enlightened story/lesson to share when a grandchild has stumbled upon a roadblock in their life that they need help with. I’ve also always been curious about how other humans live their lives around the globe, and constantly wonder “if I could live such a life”…whether it be a farmer in rural Russia, a CEO in Shanghai, or an entrepreneur operating in a public market of Istanbul. I really try to put myself in their shoes, which I believe allows me to develop great empathy for others and a willingness to entertain their points of views.
But the Eastern way of thinking, stripping things away, has increasingly resonated with me. Our time is finite. There will never be enough time, money, or energy for me to experience all that life has to offer. There isn’t enough time to experience 1% of what life has to offer. But I’m beginning to be comfortable with that and enjoying the “sacrifices” I choose to make. The relationships I invest in, the books I read, and the trips I take. Instead of constantly feeling as though I need to rush from one thing to the next in order to be as productive and efficient as possible on a fixed timeline, I prioritize what I value and what I want to give energy/attention to and I commit with full presence to that path. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to be cautious of the hedonic treadmill trap many can find themselves in if they don’t maintain perspective of their individual core values and internal motivators as they pursue growth and challenges in the world.
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