Let's celebrate the Year of the Dragon with a five surefire steps toward simplicity. The Chinese festival stretches from January 23 to February 6, so there's time to test these suggestions offered by Lao Tzu some 2500 years ago. Philosophers of all ages are drawn to his straightforward words.

1) Take to heart the knowledge of things that are in your control and those that aren't. Let what's beyond your reach stay there. Be clear as to your responsibilities and allow frivolous concerns to drop away. Realize that you are small and that "the universe is forever out of control" (Tao Te Ching). Do your best and step back.

2) Stop striving for praise and recognition. Give the term self respect genuine meaning, from you, for you. "Because he believes in himself, he doesn't try to convince others."

3) Relish simple pleasures. Avoid the lure of consumerism. Practice contentment, knowing that enough really is enough. "If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself."

4) Address problems and correct mistakes on the spot. Don't waste time with worries festering, brows knitting, stuck in inaction. Deal and move on. "Confront the difficult while it is still easy." Don't let the moment pass.

5) Perhaps best of all: "Prevent trouble before it arises." Anticipate consequences. Spare yourself and others. Go easy.

In Lao Tzu's spirit, that's all.

About the Author

Marietta McCarty

Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.

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