How To Stop Grinding and Worrying in Our Careers? What Can We Learn From Taoism.

Updated on January 3rd, 2024

November 28th 2021

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  • In this article, we introduce the concept behind taoism: the ancient Chinese school of thought and how we, professionals living and working in the modern world, can benefit from these teachings.

  • Is Taoism a remedy for mental health problems of today? We introduce taoistic philosophy and “the art of letting go.”

  • Lastly, we list the taoistic rules for health and longevity in 7 points.

We All Worry Too Much… Time To Learn About Tao.

In today’s professional and career management world, we tend to worry more and more. The fast-changing job market, the coronavirus, the inflation, the rental estate prices, uncertain career paths…

But life doesn’t need to look like this! The beautiful philosophy and lifestyle of the East might give you a different perspective on life and help you stop grinding and worrying about your career development.

In the Western world, we often borrow from the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism or from the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai. However, one less popular philosophy is Taoism, followed by over 12 million worldwide (mostly living in Taiwan, China, and Korea).

Why is Taoism worth our attention? Well, this ancient philosophy might be an answer to the problems of today’s capitalistic society as it focuses on how to stop grinding and live an effortless life.

The Origin Story: How Taoism Came To Life.

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (which is translated as “Old Master” in Chinese) is believed to be the creator of Taoism (although his existence is often disputed). 

He lived around 550 BC, and wrote a masterpiece called the main work of Taoism, “Tao Te Ching,” translated as “The Way of Virtue.” Until this day, “Tao The Ching” is the second most translated piece of literature after The Bible. 

Some legends concerning Lao-Tzu also claim that he was the contemporary and teacher of Confucius, the creator of Confucianism. Most likely, these legends are not true though.

If you would like to learn more about Confucianism, please check our article “How To Live a Good Life? A Note On Confucianism and What Can It Teach Us When It Comes To Building Professional Networking Strategies.

Why Don’t We Hear About Taoism More Often?

Despite Taoism being one of the most popular schools of philosophy in China, little is known about the principles on Taoism in the Western world. The most popular reason for this little adoption of the Tao’s teachings to the language and needs of the citizen of the today’s Western world.

The pioneer in this space was Alan Watts, an English writer, speaker and self-styled “philosophical entertainer” who first introduced Taoism to the Western world through books and public lectures. 

Yet another seminal figure was Wayne Dyer, an American self-help author and motivational speaker, who drew inspiration from various philosophical traditions, including Taoism. Dyer incorporated Taoist principles into his teachings on personal growth, spirituality, and self-realization.

Yet still, to this date, when we think “Chinese philosophy” we tend to think “buddhism.” In this article, we will introduce the main principles of taoism and explain why taoistic values and rules for good life are relevant today – more than ever before.

The Tao.

Tao is the central concept of Taoism. “Tao” literally means “The Way,” while “Taoism” means “follow the Tao.” In Taoism, “Tao,” or “Dao,” symbolizes the source and the substance of everything that exists. In principle, every living creature is a manifestation of the Tao.

As humans, we cannot fully understand the Tao, but we need to engage and interact with it. Taoists aim to live in harmony with the Tao, and follow the path of “compassion,” “frugality,” and “humility.” They believe that once you get in tune with the Tao, all your sufferings will cease.

In both Buddhism and Taoism, humans are capable of experiencing immortality. Similar to Buddhists, most Taoists believe in reincarnation. However, unlike Buddhists who believe that the ultimate goal of every living creature is to reach enlightenment, to Taoists, the ultimate goal of human existence is to achieve perfection by unifying with the Tao.   


Taoism is often referred to as “the philosophy of flow,” and Wu Wei is its leading concept. In Chinese, “Wu Wei” means “nonaction,” “effortless action,” “non-doing,” “action without action,” or “being in the zone.” When you are in the zone, or in a flow state, you engage in action without striving, worrying, or ruminating. In the Taoistic culture, the concept of wu Wei is often represented by water.

Unlike in Buddhist tradition in which you should aim to be selfless, in Taoism the fact that you have will is not an issue. The challenge is to align your will with the natural cause of events in the universe and position yourself in a way that your feel no resistance and no effort. 

As Lao Tzu once said, “That which offers no resistance, overcomes the hardest substances. That which offers no resistance can enter where there is no space. Few in the world can comprehend the teaching without words, or understand the value of non-action.”

How does it look in practice? Let’s say that you want to get to the other side of a lake. Of course, you can grab a kayak and start rowing. But, you can also notice that the wind is blowing toward the opposite bank of the lake, and put on a sheet of the mast, and make the wind carry your boat and do all the job for you. 

Similarly, in your career development process, you can just observe the wind: look for unfair advantages that you have in the job market, and position yourself in a way that allows you for making maximal professional progress with minimal effort. This approach has nothing to do with opportunism. Taoism is the art of living intelligently, a sort of mental aikido.

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The Hustle Culture.

In Western culture, we are told to hustle in our professional development. The hustle culture promotes grinding for 12 to 16 hours a day, striving for high status and life success. The more you sweat, the more you should be appreciated for your efforts and the more dreamy your career path will be. 

Hustlers promote building “successful careers” by knocking at as many doors as possible and trying to force through for as long as it takes to find a path to success.

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If you would like to read more about Hustle Culture, please look into the short biography of Gary Vee introduced in our article “Tell Me What You Think of Gary Vee And I Will Tell You Who You Are.”

However, related to the concept of Wu Wei, Taoists believe in the power of gentleness. Yes; by forcing and striving, you might get the job done. However, grinding can cause lots of collateral damage and is not good for you in the long term. 

Therefore, if you feel that you exert yourself with work, it’s not a reason to be proud but rather, a reason to implement major changes in your career planning, in your schedule, or in your working style. If you constantly feel the effort, something is just wrong with your career development strategies.

Taoism is a school of balance. You might recognize the famous yin-yang symbol stemming from the school of Taoism and representing balance in nature. 

Yin represents earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity, and absorption, while yang represents heaven, maleness, light, and activity. In this school of thought, the whole nature is balanced, and so is an ideal human life, great life and more.

The Art of Letting Go.

And as a matter of fact, we have little influence on the world around us. The pandemic, unprecedented events around, and even the neurophysiology of our own bodies… We have little control over how we feel and what will happen to us next. Therefore, Taoists believe that you should navigate through the river instead of trying to control it. 

In fact, you should even be like water. Water is a force of nature, and yet, it only seeks ways to spread without resistance. It has no purpose, no goals, and no specific desires. According to Taoistic teachings, the less specific goals you have, the better for you.

This philosophy has much to do with Buddhism, one of the core principles of which is “desire causes suffering.” Taoism is the art of letting go. The art of seeking the state of flow, and immersing yourself in the present instead of worrying about the future.

This approach is, yet again, in opposition to the hustle culture as we know it. We are being told that the more we plan our careers, the more successful we will eventually become in the job market. However, there are 12 million people out there who say “No” to the hustle culture – and, they are happy about their professional lives! 

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How To Achieve Longevity According To Taoism.

In Taoism, much attention is dedicated to physical health, as it is a fundament to live a happy and beautiful life. Masters of Taoism were well-known and respected in ancient China for their longevity. How can this longevity be achieved? Taoists live by a set of rules:

1. Staying Active.

Living every day actively, and making it rich in experience, to keep the body strong and flexible.

2. Observing Yourself.

Listening to your nature, and not letting the external expectations let you down. Observing your body and accepting it as it is. Yes, it will change with time, and that’s fine.

3. Eating According To Your Body’s Needs.

Keeping a balanced, healthy, diverse diet. Observing your body over time and adjusting the diet to address its changing needs.

4. Exercise.

Exercise focused on building flexibility, endurance, and strength in the body, rather than muscles per se. Taoists don’t treat their body as a machine to fight; they aim to dance through life rather than fight. Thus, they aim to be flexible and swift rather than athletic.

5. Living a Low-stress Life.

Optimism, focusing on positives, developing humor, avoiding an unnecessary fight and struggle in your professional and private life. Also, staying present.

Lao Tzu once said:

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Please find other seminal quotes by Lao Tzu at Goodreads.

6. Taking Care of Spirituality.

Looking within yourself on a regular basis, meditation, spiritual practices to strengthen mind and body. In the pursuit of inner peace and spiritual well-being, it’s valuable to explore various avenues that offer support. It’s worth considering the role of professionals dedicated to providing spiritual guidance and emotional support, like chaplains. Now, you might be wondering, “What is a chaplain?” A chaplain is a trained individual who specializes in offering spiritual and emotional support to individuals and communities, helping them navigate life’s challenges and find solace in times of need.

7. Avoiding Addictions.

Staying free from common addictions: not only addictive substances such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, but also mental addictions such as addiction to the Internet, extensive shopping, or compulsive seeking for attention.

8*. Patience.

Lastly, in Taoism, patience is one of the most important qualities that lead to satisfaction and happiness. Taoists understand that any progress requires time and are tuned to slow and steady personal and professional development.

For instance, they understand that passion in professional life is a quality you do not find, but rather, you achieve over time by staying focused, patient, and diligent. 

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Taoism Versus Buddhism.

The common misconception is that Taoism is “almost buddhism.” However, there are a few important differences in these two philosophies of the East.

Both Buddhism and Taoism refuse the concept of impersonated God. However, Buddhists believe that the goal of life is to attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana, while Taoists believe that the goal of life is to become one with the Tao, a life force manifesting in everything there is.

Accordingly, the main principle of Buddhism is that this life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one’s cravings and ignorance by realizing the Four Noble Truths and practicing the Eightfold Path. On the contrary, the main principle of Taoism is the Tao – the rest are its manifestations.

Furthermore, Taoism is said to be compatible with science, although it has its own ontological understanding of existence. On the contrary, many Buddhist concepts such as karma or rebirth are not verified by science.

Last but not least, the concept of karma itself differs between Buddhism and Taoism. Karma in Buddhism refers to the law of cause and effect. It is the belief that every action, whether mental, verbal, or physical, has consequences that will affect the individual in this life or in future lives.

The concept of karma, as it is understood in Buddhism does not exist in Taoism in the same way. Taoism emphasizes spontaneity, simplicity, and aligning oneself with the flow of the Tao. It doesn’t involve a complex system of moral cause and effect like karma.

How To Become a Taoist?

In Taoism, there is no doctrine. Namely, you don’t need to get “baptized” or get registered in any formal database to consider yourself a Taoist and start practicing Taoism. In fact, you can start implementing Taoist practices to your daily life right here right now! Please find a couple of ideas below:

1. Practice Meditation, Yoga, Tai-chi, Qigong.

In Taoism, it is important to keep body and mind in the state of balance. Practitioners of Taoism achieve this goal using a multitude of means, from meditating, through yoga, to tai-chi and qigong, as well as following the Taoist diet.

2. Practice Feng-shui.

In Daoism, feng-shui in an art of seeking harmony between individuals and their environment through the arrangement of objects and spaces. In principle, feng-shui pivots around creating coziness through creating spacious, decluttered interior, and using bright colors, soft light, comfortable furniture, plants, and water elements for the interior design.

3. Listen To Your Intuition.

Taoism is the way of balance and connection with nature. This practice also involves listening to your inner voice and using it to make decisions in daily life. So, don’t be afraid to follow your gut more often!

4. Open Up To New Experiences.

Taoists believe that exposing yourself to new experience, such as visiting new places, trying new dishes, or learning new skills, is the best way to follow the Dao. 

How can you keep on traveling through life with no stress and no pain if you don’t ever give yourself a chance to discover your passions and talents? By constant exploring the environment, you open up to new possibilities and you are much more likely to get inflection points in your life, find your place in the world, and develop internal harmony.

What Can We Take Out of This Tradition For Ourselves and Our Professional Careers.

The teachings of Lao Tzu often contradict the Western lifestyle. While we strive for status and try to plan for many years ahead, Taoists just let go.  

While we grind and we are proud of it, they master the art of doing the job without paying effort. While we try to maximize our everyday outcomes, Taoists focus on getting balance in their everyday beautiful life and aim for longevity instead. 

Many Taoists live in cities, develop careers, work and function hand in hand with people living the Western lifestyle. It’s just their mindset that differs. Yes, now in the 21st century, it is still possible to leave the rat race and achieve peace of mind in your professional life, consciously and happily. It’s just a matter of choice.   

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2021, November, 29th). How To Stop Worrying In Our Careers? What Can We Learn From Taoism? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/how-to-stop-worrying-what-can-we-learn-from-taoism/

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