I recently read about a Taoism concept “Wu wei”, which literally means “no-doing” or “effortless action”. This turned out to be a much deeper concept than I had initially expected. It is not simply about being efficient and doing something without effort.
It is about eliminating unnecessary struggle from our life.
Think of how many times we accomplish our goals through struggles, trying to prove something to God knows who…
It almost seems like somewhere down the road we have come to believe that life should be one continuous struggle and that only the strongest survive. We must always compete, overcome troubles, overcome doubts, make things happen, prove that we are the best!
Now think about a river. Picture a powerful stream of water that flows effortlessly, round rocks and other obstacles, yet always moving forward, always changing.
This is what the concept of ‘effortless action’ teaches us to do: flow effortlessly through life, achieving our goals easier, while spending our energy more efficiently.
Yet when I look around and I see a lot of people, who struggle, because they have a bulldozer-like approach to life. I am sure you have met people like this too. They are focused only on their goals, unbendable and determined, ready to sweep away everything and everyone who stands in their way. And every little step turns into a struggle… every achievement into a battle… and every successful person into a rival.
If you, like me, prefer to achieve more with less effort, here is what you can do to adopt the “effortless action” concept to your life:
1. Act out of passion
Whenever we are faced with something we SHOULD, rather than want to do, a part of us resists doing it. And so an inner struggle begins! The fastest way to end this struggle is to find something enjoyable about every task you are do (or at least enjoy the fact that the faster you complete it, the sooner it will be off your hands)!
2. Rely more on your intuition.
Do you know that little voice in the back of your mind that tells you what to do? A gut feeling about something? The first impulse you have to act in a certain way? As much as it pains us to admit it, very often this voice turns out to be right and our infallible logic fails big time. When you are faced with important decisions, rely on your intuition more, as logic often fails to see beyond our past experiences.
3. Stop doing what is not working.
True wisdom lies in knowing when to persist and when to let go. If something is not working, if you encounter one obstacle after another, if you are too attached to the outcome, maybe you should give it a rest? Take some time to think, to reflect, or to look for different ways to achieve the same goal.
4. Let go of the desire to control.
It is an impossible, not to mention tiresome, task trying to control situations that are objectively out of our control. Yet, we often feel the urge to do something, just to do it, because we have decided that this is what we are going to do.
Instead of spending your energy on trying to mold the situation into your initial plan, learn to let things unfold naturally.
Whenever you find yourself struggling and resisting against something, just pause for a second. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax your muscles and stop fighting! I believe it was Einstein who said that we can never resolve significant problems at the same level of thought that we had when we created them. While you are struggling, all your mind is capable of seeing is more problems and further struggles. You have to let go of tension and take control of your negative emotions in order to see the big picture and find the best possible course of action.
6. Do less with less effort.
One of the turning points in was the realization that Less is More. This realization alone has sky rocketed my productivity and cut my work -related stress in half. Welcome simplicity into your life!
When you find yourself in a whirlwind of activity, slow down and consciously start doing less… and less… and less, until you regain your balance and are able to see beyond “urgent”.
7. Notice where you lose energy.
A lot of our energy is spent on inner battles, negative emotions and in conversations with demotivating people. Therefore, whenever you find yourself dreading something, procrastinating, or talking to a person you do not like, stop and ask yourself “Why?” There must be a reason… Although, usually this reason is not strong or compelling enough to waste so much of your energy on something you did not want to do in a first place!
8. Look for other possibilities.
There are no dead-end situations. Every situation has hundreds of different outcomes, perspectives and even life-time opportunities. But often we are so focused on just one solution, that our mind becomes blind to any other possibilities. As a result we feel stuck, when there are so many different paths that we could have taken.
Carefully consider your options — all of them. Trust your intuition to guide you and do not be afraid to go off course if something better comes along (even if it is not part of your initial plan)!
9. Trust the Universe to guide you!
Objectively, our knowledge and life experience are too limited to understand what is best for us. Therefore, try not to get too attached to your plans and your goals! If something happens the exact way you wanted it to happen, accept it with gratitude! If it happens in a totally different manner or even if it does not happen at all – accept it as well! Trust the Universe to guide you and savor every part of your journey!