Knowing, Understanding and Being

by | 26 May 2014 | Coaching

Since childhood I’ve been familiar with Max Ehrmann’s beautiful 1927 poem “Desiderata” – mostly because my Mum had a framed copy on the wall in our bathroom!

I got to know it off-by-heart, but there’s a big difference between knowing, and understanding, and an even bigger difference between knowing or understanding and being!

I have a copy on my own wall these days; as I’ve got older the wisdom in the poem has worked its way further and further into my way of being.

The language of the original sounds dated these days, but the meaning is as relevant as ever, so here’s my own take on it – alas without the elegance and poetry of Max’s words, and perhaps in places a different interpretation than he intended.

Stay calm and centered in the middle of all the busy-ness and noise of everyday life, quietly carrying your inner peace with you.

Get on with people, without allowing them to walk all over you.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even if they seem boring or stupid because their view or story is still valid.

Don’t spend time with people who drain your energy, or who are stressful to be around.

If you compare yourself to other people, you may become vain and bitter as there will always be people either ‘worse’, or ‘better’ than you.

Don’t just live for the future and what you plan to do, notice and celebrate what you’ve achieved as well.

Enjoy your journey and progression through life, however modest it may be – it’s still ‘yours’.

Be streetwise, because the world is full of trickery, but don’t let this make you always assume the worst and not see the good. There are many people working to make the world better, and there is ‘heroism’ and goodness everywhere too.

Just be who you really are.

Don’t pretend with love or affection, and don’t be cynical about love either, because it can bloom and last even in the ‘driest’ of environments.

Age gracefully – don’t hold onto the past, but accept the wisdom that comes with your years.

Practice resilience to take you through unexpected tough times.

But don’t get yourself in a tizz worrying and imagining what can happen – many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

Have some self respect and a wholesome discipline, but also be compassionate with yourself.

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here” (I just love that line and couldn’t bring myself to do an alternative!)

And so find spiritual peace, whatever your beliefs; and whatever your challenges and dreams, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world

Stay positive and cheerful

Learn how to be happy.


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