Posts by Steven T. Stone:
Recently, my kid sister Allison has been reading books. Okay, this is not necessarily strange for her – she likes books more than people. What’s a little unusual is that she’s veered away from the typical history books and more into philosophical and religious stuff.
She’s opening herself up to new ways of thinking, as she likes to put it. I suppose it helps her come up with the ideas she tells us about and makes her seem much wiser than she should be at her age.
To be specific, she’s been reading a book on Taoism. For the unaware, that’s one of the many religions (or philosophy, it’s a little hard to tell) that emerged in China. There’s a lot to it, including things like internal alchemy and balance in the universe.
The one thing that stood out, from the way Allison talked about it, is the concept of wu-wei: “Doing by Not-Doing.”
The way she explained it, it wasn’t about being lazy. It was with a minimal effort, reducing the amount of conscious will to get something done.
The example she used – right out of the book, in fact – were the planets. They revolve around the sun without any external force making them do so. The planets aren’t actively doing anything, but their revolutions and rotations still get done.
Now, you probably think this whole thing is paradoxical. How do you get anything done by just sitting around and doing nothing?
Then it hit me: when are we ever really doing nothing? Even when we’re just sitting down, we’re breathing. We get up to eat. We look at things. Even when we sleep, the body keeps doing things without any conscious input.
We don’t make any conscious effort to do anything, but nothing significant is left undone.
I asked her about how she thought the notion might apply to everyday activities. She admitted she wasn’t sure. Whether that’s because the book focused on implementing it to leadership or because she’s too young to apply what she knows that way, I’m not sure.
Still, I did take a little time to consider it while I was helping a friend fix something in his car. It was a minor job, so he didn’t need to ask his usual mechanics – click here for their website – to get it done. While we were talking about it, it suddenly hit me how to fix the problem his suspension was having.
I laughed when I realised what just happened. By not thinking about the problem, I didn’t end up overthinking it. By not overthinking it, my mind just ran its course and found a solution.
The smile on my face felt huge. The paradox was pretty simple, in a manner of speaking. Don’t overthink things, don’t overdo things, and just let nature run its course. At some point, things will be solved without you working too hard or doing too much.
I have to admit; it’s a little counterintuitive. We spend so much time thinking about things and being busy because that’s what we grow up thinking how things work.
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