November 29th, 2021 | How To Stop Grinding and Worrying in Our Careers? What Can We Learn From Taoism
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 in 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, practiced 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.
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 creatures 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,” or “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 the 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 a mental aikido.
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.
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 an incredible life force, and yet, it only seeks ways to spread without resistance. It has no purpose, no goals, 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 for 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 in 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!
Striving For Longevity
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. Living every day actively, and making it rich in experience, to keep the body strong and flexible.
2. 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. Keeping a balanced, healthy, diverse diet. Observing your body over time and adjusting the diet to address its changing needs.
4. 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: focusing on positives, developing humor, avoiding unnecessary fight and struggle in your professional and private life.
6. Spiritual practices to strengthen mind and body.
7. Avoiding addictions.
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 XXIst 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.
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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