Timeless Truths

In Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling’s) book, Troubled Blood (opens in a new link), another timeless truth presented itself in the form a quote from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (opens in a new link). Here’s the quote:

It is the mynd, that maketh good or ill,

That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore:

For some, that hath abundance at his will,

Hath not enough, but wants in greatest store;

And other, that hath litle, askes no more,

But in that litle is both rich and wise.

Despite the unfamiliar language and spellings of the late 16th century, Edmund Spenser reminds us that what we experience depends upon our state of mind. Let’s break this stanza down to see more fully what he is saying.

It is the mynd, that maketh good or ill,

Spenser reminds us that nothing is good or evil until we judge it so. Our reaction to a situation depends upon how we judge, or don’t judge, it. Judgment is an emotional reaction to what was said or what happened. We can’t avoid judging because it’s an automatic response. We can, however, suspend judgment. We can set it aside so that we no longer view the event as good or bad. Instead, we see it as it is…something to be dealt with.

When we suspend judgment we acknowledge that nothing is all good or all bad. Instead, we realize that what we face are situations which involve tradeoffs. Each tradeoff has advantages and disadvantages. Suspending judgment causes the emotional reaction to be replaced with objective, well-reasoned evaluation of the tradeoffs available to us. It’s in this mindset that we make our best, most conscious choices. 

That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore:

Choosing to focus on the mistakes we’ve made rather than the lessons we’ve learned; on what we want but haven’t attained instead of what we already enjoy; on material possessions rather than the joy we experience when we help others, determine whether we are wretched or happy, rich or poor.

For some, that hath abundance at his will,

Here Spenser is laying the groundwork for the remainder of his message. He’s helping us envision those who possess an abundance of material and financial wealth. Usually these images are accompanied by wishes that we possessed such good fortune. Rarely do we consider what these people have done to earn the material wealth they possess. Indeed, if we knew what tradeoffs they’d made in their quest, most of us would not have chosen those tradeoffs.

Hath not enough, but wants in greatest store;

This line speaks to the importance of both contentment and desire to our well being. If, as this line suggests, we aren’t content with what we’ve attained adding to the store isn’t going to bring contentment to us.

Conversely, if we are content with what we’ve achieved but lack the desire to achieve more, we quickly become disenchanted with life. In this state, life has no meaning, there’s no sense of purpose, no sense of being valuable or valued. It’s the blend of being content (appreciating) what we’ve achieved while striving to greater achievements that enables us to enjoy life to the fullest.

And other, that hath litle, askes no more,

Again, Spenser is referring to material possessions. These are people who have acquired the material wealth necessary for the life they’ve chosen. They need no more than they currently possess to be content in a material sense.

But in that litle is both rich and wise.

Spenser is telling us that it is these people, who are content with what many consider little in terms of possessions who are both rich and wise. Early in my career, I was a financial advisor. I met people with six-figure incomes and near seven-figure financial wealth that I never saw smile. I also played softball with commercial HVAC tech who, with overtime, probably didn’t make more that $70,000 a year and who had 14 kids. He was always sporting a big, beautiful smile. He was rich and wise in that he had chosen what made him happy and was content with his choices. 

For you

All too often we compare ourselves to people who seem to enjoy greater success without ever wondering:

  • What tradeoffs did they have to make to enjoy their success?
  • What did they forgo?
  • Are they happy with their choices?
  • Or do they wish they’d have made different choices?

In reality, these questions are irrelevant. What each of us should be asking is:

  • Am I taking time each day to enjoy what I’ve already achieved?
  • Are the tradeoffs I’ve made so far still making me happy today?
  • If not, what pursuit would make me happy?
  • Are the tradeoffs required for this new pursuit tradeoffs I’m willing to make? In other words, is the payoff worth the effort?
  • If so, what actions am I going to take, today, to begin my pursuit?

These latter questions, when reevaluated regularly, will afford you a mindset that assures that your are rich and wise.

For our kids

When you see kids lamenting some aspect of their lives, remind them that it’s their state of mind that determines whether something is good or ill, whether they are wretch or happy, rich or poor. Then share with them the questions above that help them choose what’s right for them. In doing so, you encourage them to ignore what others have achieved, what others possess. Instead, they’ll focus on what’s important to them…which is the only thing that matters.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to see your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. bill prenatt

    Dale, Well done Timeless Truths. Love how you reduced the concept to the 5 timeless questions we need to ask, answer, and act on in en effort to control our destiny.

    • dfurtwengler

      Glad you liked it, Bill. It never ceases to amaze me that what we just learned has been known for millennia. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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