Be Like Water

In a world that feels increasingly chaotic and unpredictable, we often wonder about what this means for our lives. We try to plan for things and have life figured out, only until the world changes once again beneath our feet.

Most of the products we use today and many of the jobs in our economy didn’t even exist just 40 years ago. Given that the world is constantly changing, what works today might not work tomorrow. In fact, it probably won’t. As life flows on, our environment changes. And, evolutionarily speaking, death awaits those who don’t adapt to their environment.

This begs the question: What should we be if our environment is constantly changing?

In the words of Lao Tzu:

“Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard.

Plants are born tender and pliant; death they are brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death.

Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”

Although the Tao Te Ching was written over 2500 years ago and is ignorant of modern scientific knowledge, it provides a timeless insight to the way the world works.

That which thrives is that which can adapt to change. Survival depends on adaptability.

This sentiment is also captured by the martial artist, Bruce Lee:

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”

Like water, we should strive to become adaptable and able to change with our environment. Psychology tells us that human beings function best with a routine. And history tells us that no routine will last forever. Although human beings are creatures of habit, we must learn to change our habits when they are no longer sufficient. This includes changing our lifestyle, philosophy, and identity.

When we cling to an identity, it becomes impossible to grow beyond it. Just as we let go of a life raft that no longer floats, we must let go of who we think we are when our environment changes. We must be adaptable and flow with life as it unfolds, becoming what we need to be for life to prosper.

Don’t run from change and let the chaos frighten you; welcome it as an opportunity for growth and prosperity. When chaos comes, light a torch in its darkness. There is always a way for those who know where to find it.

As the river of history rages onwards, become the water that brings life to wherever it flows. As our environment changes, become that which can adapt. Be that which can thrive wherever you go. No matter where you are or what’s happening around you, extract the gold and make things good.

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Matthew McKenna

Matthew McKenna

When facing hardship and burned by flame / We look to myth for where to aim / As stories of old were understood / Extract the gold and make it good.