“A thousand mile journey Begins at the feet.”

Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching

This passage from the Tao Te Ching might be one of the most famous because of its inspirational message: All you need to do on your journey towards a better life is to begin. Step. Just Do It.

Something important is overlooked in such an approach though: pay attention to where you put your feet. While an exercise routine or a dedicated healthy regime is a positive thing, what is missed is the importance of carefully choosing the path the feet are on. Not all paths are good or beneficial.

We need to have clarity about what it is we are doing and why we are doing it. We need to ask if that path will help us to reach our desired goal or not. After all, we don’t start a journey without knowing where it is we want to go and how to get there. What is our destination and our purpose? If we don’t examine that for ourselves, our action is empty or may lead us down the wrong path.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsiang responded to these lines from Lao-Tzu by saying “From a sprout, the small becomes great.” We need to know what it is we are growing and whether it will be positive or negative. And if it is good, then we can dedicate ourselves to understanding how to grow so our “greatness” can be actualized.

Yes, the journey begins at our feet—and we need to have the will to act and the discipline to continue—but to start on our path should begin with a clarity of heart, mind, and spirit. Only then will our feet be of any real use.