A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Friday 23 March 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Recognized as the author of the Tao Te Ching and the founding father of Taoism, Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer who died in 533 BC.

His words were written over 2,500 years ago yet encapsulate a wealth of timeless wisdom in one of the most renowned and often quoted Chinese proverbs of all time.

Application and Interpretation

Lyndon Johnson, who served as the 36th American President from 1963 to 1969 stated, “Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.”

Clearly we’re still on that journey.

Yet peace is just one out of many different ways to apply – and interpret – what Lao Tzu intended to share.

Extract the Meaning

Others include the suggestion that he’s referring to significant things starting from modest beginnings or that the most challenging and lengthy undertakings have a simple starting point.

My sense is that these are all valid interpretations of this short but powerful statement.

However, I feel strongly that you and I need to extract the meaning which resonates most deeply with who we are and where we’re at on our individual journeys at any given moment in time.

My Take

So here’s my take on these eleven words today.

A journey of a thousand miles represents the vision you have for a “future” that feels meaningful to you; something you’re inspired to make a commitment to creating.

This could include any major project like writing a book, launching a business or taking a quantum leap into the next phase of your life.

The single step reminds you that the “future” arises out of who you are being and the actions you take in the present moment.

This draws your attention well and truly into the Now where you focus on the all important single step.

Missions of Magnitude

All missions of magnitude need a clear vision and conscious attention to each and every step along the way.

You start with the single step.

Then you take another…

And another…

When the dream is grounded in mindful action, the courage to begin the journey and stay the course arises, and you discover all that you need along the way.

Perhaps most importantly of all, with a conscious approach to your chosen adventure, what you actually discover is yourself!

What’s your interpretation of Lao Tzu’s words and what single step will you take on your journey today? Please share your comments below. Thank you!


You may also like to read my blog Take the First Step inspired by the well-known and well-loved quote from Martin Luther King, Jr, see here.



  • It is very encouraging to read that feeling one is in a place of modest beginnings is not somewhere for any discouragement. relatedly, the word peace calms. thank you.

    I’ve just come across Robert johnson’s autobiography. he chose a single quote to put on the back.”The mystery is this.there is one right thing to do at every moment.we can either follow or resist.”I think your conscious attention guides us to this. Thank you

    • I’m glad to hear you feel encouraged by the message of modest beginnings being a valid starting point Peter.

      In fact, I’d say that when the humility of modest beginnings is in alignment with the mindful attention of present moment awareness, the potential for true fruition (whatever form that eventually takes) becomes freely available.

      Thanks for sharing the Robert Johnson quote. Yes, I love directing people’s attention towards awakened action that can only arise from the Now!

  • I appreciate this as a reminder that I need to have a vision of what I want to create and then, with a clear intention I make conscious choices in the present moment that will help me create what I envision.
    This definitely applies to my life at this moment as I prepare to step into the process of creating my second book.
    Thank you, Julia, for the nudge.

    • Yes indeed Helen, beautifully put. Enjoy taking this awareness forwards and applying it to creating your next book.

      And thanks, as always, for sharing your reaction to this post. I’ll look forward to hearing how you’re getting on with your book in due course so keep in touch here on the blog!

  • I feel that sometimes (even ofttimes, at certain periods in life) we don’t have a clear vision, just a sense and yearning, a dream. and still have to take steps in the direction of the pull even if spontaneous, in faith, and not mapped. Or something along these lines… 🙂 Thank you for your good works!

    • Hi Carol, thank you so much for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree that we don’t always have a clear vision yet often feel a sense of direction, or have the glimpse of a dream or a yearning that we’re drawn to explore.

      In my experience it’s like having a strong inner impulse that I feel called to follow and the trust is required for me to take the steps even when the clarity about the end result isn’t yet in place.

      Either way, the “future” still arises out of who we are and the actions we take in the present moment; that is, the single step! So thanks again for raising this important point 🙂

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