Lao-Tzu (c. 500 BC) was a Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism. The name by which he is known is not a personal name but an honorific title meaning `Old Man’ or `Old Teacher’. Lao-Tzu is said to have intimately known the wisdom of silence and lived to a ripe old age.
Taoism emphasizes doing what is natural and “going with the flow” per the Tao, a cosmic force that flows through all things and binds and releases them.
Since time immemorial, the human race has sought out and accumulated wisdom on how to be better human beings, how to love more and how to live life in its fullness. Tidbits of this wisdom have been turned into beautiful life lessons that can transform your whole life and relationships if applied.
First, you have to take them seriously and then, you have to apply the lessons they provide. These life lessons below have the power to transform your whole existence if applied, and if they do not, I hope they at least motivate you. After all motivation, just like bathing, should be done every day.
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Here are 5 phenomenal life lessons that Lao-Tzu shared with us that you can apply to your relationships for phenomenal improvement.
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1. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
A successful relationship of over 50 years started with a single day. —Lizzie Natesky
When it comes to falling in love, many of us think of finding a person that understands us perfectly and is willing to love us both in our good and bad times. While this might be understandable, it places too much pressure on two strangers starting out on the journey of trying to get to know each other first.
It also applies to when two people are already in love and are looking to keep improving and growing their relationship into a mutually satisfying and healthy one.
When I decided to start dating in my early 20s, I did not know what to expect. I felt scared to fall in love. What if the person I trusted my heart with was a serial liar and cheat? What if it was one-sided love? What if he did not like me as much as I liked him? What if I could not find someone I liked?
I got stuck in that loop of “What if” questions and I somehow always managed to come up with the worst-case scenario response. I was not giving myself a fighting chance. I was afraid.
It is futile to keep on the sidelines figuring out how to best go about getting into a healthy relationship. The beginning of anything is always the hardest.
Lao Tzu teaches us that a journey of 1000 miles begins with just one step.
What you can do:
Whether you are already in a relationship and strive to be a better partner, or you are single and ready to mingle, start with the smallest thing you can do towards achieving your goal. Take that single step. Repeat. Do just one thing.
Take that first step, go out on a date. Go and see a movie. Apologize when you are in the wrong. Initiate intimacy. Talk to each other about your passions, beliefs, dreams, and ambitions. Give yourself a fighting chance.
Take the first step.
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2. Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.
In a world full of people desperately trying to be like other people, dare to be yourself.
Have the strength to learn from those better than you. In my case, I find myself constantly studying happy couples and asking what makes them thrive.
I then pause and reflect on how I can apply their methods to my own. For example, how do they keep giving each other attention? How do they interact with each other’s families? What language styles do they use? What do they value the most as a couple?
And then armed with this knowledge, I aim to learn more about myself and about my partner. Self-awareness is a gift we all deserve to keep giving to ourselves.
If you want a successful and happy relationship, you have to focus on mastering yourself. If you’re not growing, guess what? Neither is your relationship.
Trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are. Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths, and beauty like no one else. And believe that your partner sees that, too.
What you can do:
When you are honest with yourself about who you are, it is easier to take the mechanics of what you have learned about relationships and use that to catapult yours with your partner.
Be the person you know yourself to be — the best version of you — on your terms. And above all, be true to YOU — if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.
Love from the heart as often as you can. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with you partner. It gives you a stronger connection and a solid foundation for your relationship.
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3. Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. — Bruce Lee
My dad gets along with everyone. He is flexible. Fluid, shapeless, adaptable — he is like water.
He taught me the virtue of flexibility using a simple exercise. He mentioned that when in the water jug, the water took on the shape of the jug. When poured into the cup, it took on the shape of the cup. Water conforms to whatever container you put it in.
This quote implies that wherever such a virtuous person exists, the place will be improved. Their mind is calm like a deep pool. They treat people with impartial love and their words can be trusted.
Water nourishes all beings without competing with them, settles where none would like to be and flows over rocks to create river beds. If you can learn to bring this quality into your relationship, your partner will find it refreshing and keep coming back for more.
What you can do:
Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.
A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.
Be like water in your relationship.
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4. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
We rise by lifting others.
Each time someone does an act of kindness for me, I want to do something kind for them in return.
Kindness in words creates confidence.
If you speak kindly to your partner, they will feel validated in their thoughts and become more confident in themselves.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
If you think with kindness, you develop sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of your partner. Compassionate thoughts are profound.
Kindness in giving creates love.
You can give of yourself through your relationship. You can spread sunshine in your partner’s and other people’s lives regardless of the weather. Be kind.
What you can do:
Leave your partner encouraging love notes in random places. Help and support them in their aspirations whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Give compliments and constructive feedback. Do for your partner what you would want them to do for you.
We rise by lifting others. In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
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5. If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
Happiness is a direction, not a place.
Direction! So many of us are secure but unhappy, comfortable but unfulfilled, hardworking and yet unproductive. It is a unique problem because nothing is wrong but nothing is right either.
Even when it comes to our relationships.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with my sister with whom I had not chatted in a while. We started talking about life and what we were doing and she disclosed to me how she was looking for motivation to run her new business. I instantly jumped into help mode and my heart started to come alive. I love helping people, especially those I care about.
Well, the “secret” about flow is that it all leads downstream. When you stay in the flow of how life and love are happening to you long enough, you end up a tiny drop of water in a wide expansive ocean.
You’re more than a speck, though. You are an amazingly unique and special person filled with skills and passion and love and personality traits that NOBODY else can emulate.
The great human that you are celebrates you and is excited for the day you will share your awesomeness with your partner, and with the world. Take heart in that.
What you can do:
You don’t need to go with the flow of life and other people’s relationships. You need to start going with the flow of YOU!
At the centre of your being, you have the answer. You know who you are, and you know what you want out of the relationships you choose to have in your life.
Look at where you’re headed and if it’s not where you want to go. Stop! Analyze your love life and set some intentional goals to change your direction.
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As the adage goes, advice usually benefits the person giving it more than the one receiving it. This advice is especially for me, but I hope it serves you, too.
And now your thoughts…
What are some other phenomenal life lessons that can help us improve our relationships? The floor is now yours to share your thoughts and any advice you might have.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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