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DO NOTHING if you want to be your best

non-doing to do away nervousnessAccording to Lao Tzu, if you can master the art of non-doing, you would be able to accomplish anything you want.  ‘Do nothing and get everything undone’, says he. 

This is what we know as non-doing, or wuwei. 

How is this possible?

Many people find it perplexing.  This is especially we’re so used to doing things, and the idea of doing nothing to get things done is difficult to comprehend. 

In fact, not only is non-doing possible, it happens all the time — every minute of your life!

A good example is breathing.  Are you aware of breathing when you’re doing it? It is something that you do without ‘doing’.  The more natural it is, the more effective the job is done.  Try to control you breath!  You will find the excessive action is hampering, rather than helping, the activity.

Strictly speaking, non-doing is not about doing absolutely nothing.  You do act.  The key thing is that you act on what is required by nature, NOT your desire.  You allow nature to takes its course, rather than imposing on nature your desires.

Let’s use speaking as an illustration.

Many people talk naturally when they are among close friends.  They are jovial and sometimes hilarious.  The strange thing is when they are thrown onto the stage to speak, they become frozen and a totally different person.  All of a sudden, they lose their spontaneity.  There are now stiff, shy and nervous!

What has happened?  Can’t they speak? 

They speak so naturally when they are with a small group of friends!  So by nature they are good speakers.  Why now that they are unable to speak?

They cannot speak because they are no longer their natural selves. 

Something have robbed them of their confidence and taken over the control.  It could be fear, confusion, eagerness to impress and what not.  We may call it the ‘doing’.

If they can stay in their natural selves, just like when they are among friends, they will regain their confidence to speak — even when they are on the rostrum. 

What they should do is to undo the ‘doing’ that prevent them from bringing out their natural expression!  They can then take back the control and be a good speaker.  This is non-doing!

Many excellent performers in the sports and the arts compromise their performances at critical moments because of the ‘doing’.  Non-doing, therefore, is so important when you want to be your best.

We tend to become impatient when things don’t happen the ways we want it to be.  We become impatient, stressed, and very often, resort to futile intervention.

The result is doing more to achieve less.

Learn the art of non-doing, and be amazed by how you can do less to achieve more!

This is the fundamental of the teachings of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. It is very powerful.

There are many ways to achieve non-doing, but stop worrying is one of the most important ones.  Learn to accept what things are, rather than burying in anxiety and fear.

“Tao invariably takes no action, and yet nothing is left undone.  If the lords can keep to this, all things will transform with spontaneity,” said Lao Tzu (32).

Thanks to Corey Balazowich for the picture.

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  1. Thank you for posting this. There is so much misunderstanding of ‘not-doing’. How does one arrive at non-doing? Witness the futility of doing ….

    1. Hi, Sol, the word ‘non’ in non-doing has a specific meaning in Tao Te Ching. It refers to nothingness and implies Tao. Non-doing is not futility of doing, but to act in accordance to Tao. Since nature is a manifestation of Tao, we may also say that non-doing is to go with the flow of nature.

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