I came across this story a few years ago and the lesson has stayed with me over the years. A few days ago something reminded me of this story and I decided to share this with everyone for the sheer simplicity and the powerful message it carries.
A group of alumni, who were very successful in their careers, decided to get together to visit their old university professor. After they all reunited, the conversation of the alumni soon turned into complaints about work, relationships and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
When all of his old students had a cup of coffee in hand, they sat down together and the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is, of course normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that can also be the source of much of your dissatisfaction, problems and stress.
It’s important to know that the cup itself adds no real quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just chosen because its perceived to be more special or expensive. What all of you really wanted was experience of the coffee, not the cup, but you unconsciously went for the best cups. Some of you tried to get the best cup first or began eyeing each other’s cups to see if yours was nice enough.
Now consider this: Life is a bit like the cup of coffee; the jobs, money possessions and position in society are the cups. They are just tools and structures that contain or hold together the current story of your life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.
Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.
Here is my advice to you – Savour the coffee, not the cups! What you really want is to be happy. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.