“He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them,” said Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist. Several centuries later, Confucius expressed the same thought, in a less martial context, when he wrote, “If a person takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”
The past continues to accumulate and we are filled with the anticipation of tomorrow. We live in the present but know that this present was once yesterday’s future.
Sometimes the best preparation is to wait quietly, letting things unfold in their own way. We can’t control everything, so watchful waiting may be the right course. This is the unanxious presence that can live with the flow. Here forethought is one thought too many.
For other times and circumstances, forethought is required. Preparation is practice, anticipation and making the right choices so that the future can be one of fulfillment and flourishing.
When our ethical values become part of our fiber, we prepare for better relations with those we love. When imagining ourselves leading fair, kind, loving and decent lives, the kind of life we wish we would someday have is more likely to become a reality. We not only have prepared for that day but have coaxed it into being.
Here is a simple story: A man came to have a suit made. The tailor laid out the bolt of cloth, found his scissors and cut. The next week the customer returned to try on the new clothes. To his dismay, the suit didn’t fit properly.
So the tailor made the adjustments. He shortened the sleeves and raised the cuff. The customer returned the following week and tried on the suit once again. But it still didn’t fit right. Now the shoulders hung wrong and the front buttoned too tight.
The tailor took the suit back and made the adjustments again. This went on for ten visits until, exhausted, the tailor got the suit to fit correctly.
The tailor related this story to a friend one day in a café. The tailor complained about how difficult the customer was, demanding more and more adjustments.
“Well, maybe it wasn’t the customer,” his friend said. “The fault was really yours. After all, it is better to measure ten times and cut once than to measure once and cut ten times.”