Desiderata Poem Meaning And Analysis

desiderata poem by Max EhrmannBack in 1927, a gentleman named Max Ehrmann, wrote a poem titled "Desiderata". It was not particularly well known during his lifetime. But it became a huge hit in the 60's and the 70's when someone who mistakenly thought the work was in the public domain, made a poster of it.

And Desiderata became a huge hit. Not just the poster, but narrated versions of the poem by Leonard Nimoy and Les Crane became big hits too.

Back in the day, I really liked this poem and gave a poster of it to my sister. My sister in turn gave that copy to our niece as a gift, and she asked me what it meant. So I have put together here an analysis and interpretation of the poem's words. It's not a literary analysis for sure, and the poem itself is a beautiful work, full of delightful phrasing which still stirs my soul when i read it, these many years later.

Below, I have put the original words of the poem in regular font and a short interpretation about it in bold face. For sure, my thoughts about what it means might be different from those of anyone else, and if you have  a thought you would like to share, please leave a comment.

Thank you Eileen, Nancy and Amanda

Download your printable copy of the Desiderata

Desiderata

"This is what I want in my life"

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

"Stop talking to fill the silence and listen to your own inner voice."

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Everyone is walking their own path with their own struggles and could really use your good thoughts."

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

"Loud and noisy persons are almost always trying to get you to pay attention to them instead of the voice of your own heart. TV and the internet are full of these people, it is OK to let them go."

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

"You are already you and nobody is going to be any better at being you than you are. And it is OK to let other people to be who they are."

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

"Much of the fun in life is the journey, not just the destination. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you are wasting most of your life."

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

"Pick something you like to do and learn more about it, and let everyone else do the same."

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

"Individually, people are pretty good. Many of them think they have to act some other way at work, they don’t have to, but they think they do. In their hearts, most people are kind and good. Pay attention to that part of them."

Be yourself.

"Don’t pretend to be somebody you aren’t. It doesn’t work well, never lasts, and is always a waste of time. But understand that who you are how you think is going to change over the course of your lifetime."

Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

"The greatest commandment is love. It is all that counts, and if you concentrate on loving others, you will find your own life filled with love in return."

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

"It is OK to grow up, your view on things changes, and it’s really a lot of fun, no matter what the commercials try to tell you about wanting to stay a child."

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

"Real spirituality is always about love and light. If a spiritual practice or religion teaches anything different than that – especially if they are teaching you to be afraid – that teaching is wrong, and its time for you to let go of your attachment to it."

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

"That inner voice that talks to you, you have control over, and when you let it say nice things to you, your life becomes more beautiful."

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

"You are not a mistake, you are not a sinner, and everything you are is God. Everything. You are not cut off from God, he doesn’t think you are bad and every day He is sending you signs and symbols of how much He loves you."

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

"Its OK, the part that counts most is your heart. Think good thoughts, do good things, and allow others to do the same for you. Your perception of life will change tremendously, much for the better."

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

"Let yourself be happy. Your life will be so much better when you are."

Max Ehrmann, "Desiderata"

The Desiderata poem is one of those classic pieces of timeless writing and so we put together a beautiful printable pdf copy of the Poem that you can download for free. :-)

Click this button to download your free PDF copy of the Desiderata poem with pictures:

Download Free PDF of Desiderata With Pictures


140 Comments on “Desiderata Poem Meaning And Analysis”

  1. Janina

    Hi there, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you because I used to have this poster taped up on my wall when i was a kid.

    I don’t want to say it was a long time ago, but it was definitely longer than I want to remember. :-)
    Janina recently posted..hcg drops reviewsMy Profile

    1. Michael

      No worries, Janina. The world is a very big place and even if we might think something was a long time ago, the truth is, all time is now. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Elvia

    I got a link to your site from my girlfriend Donna who said she is on your email list and that she visits your website often.

    She like it and now I do too. Thank you for sharing this with the web community.

    1. Michael

      It was funny that I wrote this because my sister gave my niece her original copy. Maybe not Ha Ha funny, but interesting and cool in that very metaphysical kind of way.

  3. Designer Dave

    I spend a lot of time online looking for information that rally makes a difference in people’s lives. Your site is one of the one that I rad often. Please write more.

  4. Enrique

    I looked in Google to find out about how to interpret the desiderata poem, I am glad I clicked on this link. Thanks. Hope your niece like it. :-)

  5. Nelly The Wonder Girl

    What’s up, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this blog post.

    It was practical. Keep on posting!

  6. Ashli

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more
    of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  7. Anna Hensley

    I loved this poster when I was a kid. It was undeniably one of the best things to come form the 70’s for me. And your intrepertatin was right on giving me things to think about that I had not known before. Thanks

  8. Martina

    Thank you for the good blog post. I never really thought about this before in this way and I liked that you wrote this for us. Do you have a way to get emails from you?

  9. Steve

    I love this poem. I had heard of it before, but I had never seen an interpretation quite like this. Thank you

  10. Tammie Foss

    I am really pleased to read this interpretation of the Desiderata poem. Thank you – I really love this poem.

  11. Marjun

    Love the literary analysis of the poem! It gives me more reasons to live each day full of love, confidence and secured. What you are is something you need to be thankful about it. It doesn’t matter for as long you are doing what is right for the betterment of everybody. Congrats!

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  14. Myriam

    This piece about the Desiderata poem is excellent. You certainly know how to keep your readers enthralled. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

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  16. Mia

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the poem. I had always wondered why this poem was written in the way it was. Many thanks for sharing your insights.

  17. Quint

    Can I just say what a relief to find somebody who actually knows what they are discussing on the net. A lot more people ought to look at this and understand this side of your story. You surely have the gift for explaining complex topics in simple terms

  18. Charles

    I am extremely impressed with your analysis of this Desiderata. I have heard of this poem and have read it in other places. But I have not seen it analyzed in this way before. Thank you.

  19. Ola

    I loved this. I have been looking for a way to understand this poem. I love the way it sounds, but I wanted to really get it. And now I do thanks to your interpretation.

  20. Marquita

    Its as if you read my mind and knew exactly what I was thinking. This is a terrific analysis of the Desiderata poem. Many thanks

  21. Marsha

    First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Cheers!

    1. Michael

      Thank you Marsha. What I find works best for me is to sit down with some ideas on notecards. Then I begin writing in Word. After a few minutes I stop and look back through what I have written and spell check it. At this point I often let go of what I have written and then re-write it, sometimes adding new ideas and sometimes letting go of everything. As long as my intention is to write the perfect piece for this particular moment, I have no issue with letting already written ideas go because I know I will have plenty just when I need them.

  22. Claudia

    Very great post. I love this poem, interesting I stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. Thank you.

  23. Tamika

    I found A Life of light really pretty much by accident when I was searching for information about the Desiderata poem. I really enjoyed how you analyzed the words and meaning.

  24. Sherri

    I have always loved this poem and it is very cool that you have such a great explanation of it. Thank you.

  25. Paul Kavanaugh

    “Desiderata” is by far, my favorite poem, creed or even a prayer! Being in the broadcasting industry as a broadcast engineer for years, I had the privilege of meeting Les Crane a few years after he recorded “Desiderata”. Your translation or interpretation of this reading is beautiful and understanding for all to read. I’ve often wondered perhaps though, if the late Paul Reid from CJAD in Montreal had read this, it probably would have been even a bigger success story then that of the two mentioned on your site (Les or Leonard), simply because to here his voice is fabulous. To perhaps hear his voice listen to ” To a sleeping beauty”, you all will be impressed if you haven’t heard his delivery or voice before! I’m entitled to say, he had one of the best voices in both radio or television that I”ve ever heard! His tone, inflection and delivery of various readings over the years was up at the top of the list with any of the best broadcasters in the industry! I’ve said what I feel had to shared with all and with that, keep up the great work on your web site.

    Regards,

    Paul Kavanaugh

  26. Dalton

    Thanks for another great article. I actually have a presentation next week where I will be talking about Desiderata and other pieces from the 60’s and 70’s. Do you by chance have a presentation on powerpoint slides that I might be able to use?

  27. amy

    I had this on my wall as a kid as well, but I never knew where it came from, so thank you. When life becomes crazy, I often turn to the Desiderata to bring me back to center. And like others, I passed my copy down to my daughter and it now hangs on her wall. I only hope that it provides her with the same centering energy throughout her life that it has always given me.

    Thanks for your insights.

    1. Michael

      That is very cool, Amy, and thank you for taking the time to tell about your experience with the Desiderata Poem. Thank you very much for your kind words.

  28. Kendra

    This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing these introspections about the poem.

  29. Nasle

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your
    next post thanks once again.

  30. Francis

    Very interesting post, I liked that poem, Desiderata back when I was a kid and I like it even more now. Thank you for the analysis.

  31. Paul

    Michael, One of your contributors reminded me as well, that a centered feeling within “Desiderata” comes over me whenever I would read this with the two children I raised. It would always remind me in a way of thinking, “If you don’t change your direction…You will end up where you are going”. This poem has always been a wonderful, guiding and inspiring ” check list” for me to stay centered…Keep up this great blog!!!

    1. Michael

      Paul, you are so right, this is the perfect piece to share with children, a centered approach to living and an enthusiasm for the spirit of life itself. Desiderata works perfectly as a checklist. Thank you for your kind words.

  32. Paul

    Michael…Thank-You for inviting all your guests to share on your blog. For your dedication and determination in writing this blog. Those counsels of these years of mine, has now allowed me to begin reading all of creed into the minds of my grandchildren!!! Regards,

  33. Cheryl

    Excellent! This was a wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this interpretation of the Desiderata poem

  34. Halie

    Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone. Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your
    posts! Keep up the superb work!

  35. Abe

    Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I think you have an exceptional blog and great design and style.

  36. Sheralee

    I discovered Desiderata when I was 14… just after my Mother passed away. I was looking for meaning and inspiration in life, to keep going. Desiderata was my answer to everything and still is. That was 36 years ago. I have had a copy with me in one form or another (at times several) everyday of my life since. This year for my birthday I had “Desiderata” inked on my body – and I love it! Extremely special and meaningful for me. I have made sure everyone close to me knows about Desiderata.
    Thank you for the modern day interpretation.

    1. Michael

      Thank you very much for sharing your story, that is very kind and wonderful. Desiderata means a lot to me; one of those pieces of writing that stands across generations. Awesome that you have ink. I got my first at age 49, not the Desiderata but a Celtic symbol from my cultural heritage. :-)

  37. Connie Jean Conklin

    I’ve always loved this poem! The very words, to me, explain everything a person needs to get along in this world. But for the first time ever, I came across someone who refused to take the effort to read it- ’cause he hates poetry. He did say I could explain it to him since I claimed it was so important to understand. But we ended up in another argument before I could do so and I broke off the relationship.

    We finally agreed to be friends, but just not spend enough time together to get into another argument. I was about to write out my explanation for him, then thought to check the Internet, first. So, now I’m sending your explanation. He has so much anger and with reason. But he doesn’t see how it isn’t helping to alienate people. Maybe this will help.

    1. Michael

      Thank you for your kind words, Connie. :-) This poem is one of the best pieces of writing I have come across ever. It spoke to me as a child and continues to create feelings of peace and contentment in my heart all these years late.

  38. Stephen Sheppard

    When I was in technical college in the late 70s, I lived away from my parents home for the first time and at times I was very lonely, especially on weekends. The school work was very difficult. I was on scholarship and I had to maintain good grades in order to maintain the scholarship. I fortunately had a copy of the poem Desiderata and when I was at my lowest, I read it for solace. It seemed to have worked as I graduated and went on to a successful career. In 2008, when I took my first son to medical school, I gave him a framed copy of Desiderata and told him how it helped me. He is now a doctor. In 2015, my second son started medical school and he also has a copy. I appreciate the interpretation. I had my own interpretation over the years but I never verbalized it. Your interpretation and analysis is very similar to how I perceived Desiderata

    1. Michael

      The Desiderata has meant a lot to me in my life starting all the way back in the 70’s. I really like the idea that it keeps giving help and solace to so many peopel even now. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. Congratulations to you and your sons. That is absolutely awesome.

  39. gary weber

    awesome poem/words, would the world not be a 100 times better off if everyone could just practice 50% of those awesome words

  40. Giulia Sibly

    This poem/poster is on the wall at our local pathology rooms and when I have a blood test it reminds me of when I was a teenager.I loved this poem/prayer.

  41. Richard Anthony

    Great post, Michael. Your words all by themselves would make a great poster. Please allow me to be the first, and to suggest a title:

    Between the Lines,
    Desiderata II

    * Stop talking to fill the silence and listen to your own inner voice.

    * Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Everyone is walking their own path with their own struggles and could really use your good thoughts.

    * Loud and noisy persons are almost always trying to get you to pay attention to them instead of the voice of your own heart. TV and the internet are full of these people, it is OK to let them go.

    * You are already you and nobody is going to be any better at being you than you are. And it is OK to let other people be who they are.

    * Much of the fun in life is the journey, not just the destination. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you are wasting most of your life.

    * Pick something you like to do and learn more about it, and let everyone else do the same.

    * Individually, people are pretty good. Many of them think they have to act some other way at work, they don’t have to, but they think they do. In their hearts, most people are kind and good. Pay attention to that part of them.

    * Don’t pretend to be somebody you aren’t. It doesn’t work well, never lasts, and is always a waste of time. But understand that who you are how you think is going to change over the course of your lifetime.

    * The greatest commandment is love. It is all that counts, and if you concentrate on loving others, you will find your own life filled with love in return.

    * Real spirituality is always about love and light. If a spiritual practice or religion teaches anything different than that – especially if they are teaching you to be afraid – that teaching is wrong, and its time for you to let go of your attachment to it.

    * That inner voice that talks to you, you have control over, and when you let it say nice things to you, your life becomes more beautiful.

    * You are not a mistake, you are not a sinner, and everything you are is God. Everything.

    * You are not cut off from God, he doesn’t think you are bad and every day He is sending you signs and symbols of how much He loves you.

    * It’s OK, the part that counts most is your heart. Think good thoughts, do good things, and allow others to do the same for you. Your perception of life will change tremendously, much for the better.

    * Let yourself be happy. Your life will be so much better when you are.

    1. Michael

      Thank you for your very kind words. I am so humbled that you proposed this idea. That is an awesome idea for a poster of between the lines. I love the Desiderata Poem. :-)

  42. Alicia

    I just need to say this is one motivating piece of writing. I have always loved this poem and thank you for doing this analysis.

  43. jim carlin

    i found the poem-poster in a book store–pinned it on the inside of my front door–read it every day before leaving for work– my son said “it’s the only thing i want you to pass on to me dad” :)

    1. Michael

      I love this poem, it is one of the best pieces of positive writing I have ever found. That is very cool that your son has this in mind for his life. :-)

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  47. Mike

    Accept love and life for what it is, it’s better to have a friend than an enemy, don’t be naive but be positive.

    Not much good comes from negative until the positive appears. Be kind, be true, be fair. You don’t always win, but people will know that you care. You don’t have to agree but you do have to respect one another’s opinions, we are not born of the same circumstance.

    Smile, it can only make you and everyone around you feel comfortable. Love and be loved. Be proud and be humble and let the words and your interpretation of Desiderata guide you through every moment and every challenge life affords you. Make yourself proud of being you.

    1. Michael

      Thank you for this excellent comment Mike. you are so right in what you are saying. The world is much, much more fun when viewed from a positive point of view.

  48. jim carlin

    I put this poem on the inside of my front door and read it every day before I left for work-a great way for me to start the day:)

    1. Michael

      Sometimes the simplest things to do are the best ones for us. Funny how what we pay attention most often becomes part of our lives more easily. :-)

  49. Noel

    I never knew that this poem is very special. I always heard or to see in different books but I always ignore it. Now, I know it was a very special message to everyone of us. Thanks for the excellent explanation..

  50. Kala

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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