Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

A moral tale

Have you heard the story of the fisherman and the businessman? It’s a parable I’ve heard many times over the years. Its origins are uncertain but what is clear is that it’s a universal tale with a simple but poignant message.

For those who haven’t come across it yet, let me tell you in a nutshell. So there’s a fisherman (no surprise) and a businessman (you’re getting the hang of it) who meet on an island.

The fisherman tells the businessman about his idyllic lifestyle. He starts the day by catching just enough fish to feed his family and then retires for the afternoon to relax and spend time with his loved ones. The businessman tries to convince the fisherman to catch more fish so he can sell them and save up to buy a bigger boat, then a fleet and so on until he is the wealthy director of a successful company.

The fisherman is attentive but questions what it will achieve. At this point the businessman declares that after years of toil the fisherman will finally be in a position to retire to a nice spot by the beach where he can fish, relax and spend time with his friends and family.

We’re back where we started. Absurd right? And yet many of us are caught up playing this game in our modern societies.

The road to happiness

It’s a lovely cyclical tale which reflects upon how we often strive for success and contentment despite happiness being available in our present. It reminds us that if we are attuned, we can find happiness right on our doorsteps.

Happiness can be gained from many simple pleasures – a stroll on the beach, walking barefoot over freshly cut grass, laughing with friends, eating a favourite meal or meeting new people.

Yet somehow our obsession with wealth and success seems to have taken over. The need for material possessions makes us work harder and earn more so we can buy more. A new car, a bigger house, more stuff to put in the bigger house, and so on and so on.

In some cases it may be our modern lifestyle blocking us from achieving peace and happiness in the here and now.

Keep it simple

In moments of stress and distraction it can be hard to remember what’s really important. Why not take the time to write a simple list of the things that make you happy as well as some of the immaterial goals you wish to achieve?

Stick your list up somewhere prominent so that it will remind you on a daily basis of what’s essential. Perhaps you prefer visual cues and if that’s the case go your creative hardest using photos or illustrations to keep you focussed.

Millions of dollars are spent each year by big business on catalogues and commercials designed to make us crave the material must haves. There’s so much to desire and it’s hard not to be dazzled by the plethora of new shiny things on offer – those gadgets you never knew you needed (we’ve all fallen prey at some point but I won’t share my list here). Suffice to say it’s no wonder we forget what we really need.

So why not compete with the advertising companies by making up your own marketing collateral. Have an equally dazzling list of inspiring moments to keep you on track. Everyone is different but I’m picturing nature walks, more time spent writing, dinner with friends, dancing, reading a good book, playing games with the kids, driving through the hills and swinging in a hammock. What’s on your list?

Don’t wait for tomorrow

Slow down now and remember the simple pleasures in life. Stay true to yourself and forge your own happy path, just like the fisherman.

You can read the full story here – this version set in Brazil and is recounted by Paul Coelho. But a search of ‘the fisherman and the businessman’ will bring up many examples of this classic tale.

About the author: Marina Barbaro is somewhat of a gypsy writer – roaming between projects and enjoying a spirited approach to the written word. Most recently she joined the team from a million smiles, where she will be sharing her extensive experiences travelling and living amongst different cultures. See more of her amazing work by following


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