Change It if You Can. If Not, Go with the Flow

· August 26, 2016

In Chinese, the term Wu Wei describes an aspect of the Tao philosophy that refers to the fact that the most appropriate way to behave is not to force. Keep in mind that not forcing is not the same as doing nothing. Wu Wei also means “effortlessly” and “growth, how the river flows.”

It derives from the idea that plants grow through Wu Wei. They don’t make an effort to grow. They simply do. Therefore, it’s about doing things naturally, without forcing them and skewing their harmony. In other words: Change it if you can. If not, go with the flow.

Often times we want things to happen one way or another, or we force situations instead of letting everything go with the flow, following its own rhythm. We don’t let life happen without offering some kind of resistance. We don’t allow ourselves to grow effortlessly. It’s human to try to oppose something if it makes you uncomfortable or you dislike it. However, the wisdom derived from your experiences should guide you towards this state of “flowing.”

“Conflict, in any of its forms, indicates resistance. In a fast-paced river, there is no resistance. It flows, going around great rocks and through towns and cities. Man controls it for his own purposes. After all, doesn’t freedom imply the absence of the resistance that human thought has built around itself?”
-Krishnamurti-

Happiness as a state in which you flow along

“Flow” is a mental state in which a person is completely immersed in the activity they are performing. It is characterized by the fact that all of the energy is focused on the task at hand. The concept of “flow” was proposed by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the year 1975. Since then, it has been developed in various different fields of thought.

hands throwing flower petals

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the director of the Quality of Life Research Center in Claremont Graduate University in California. He investigates the foundation and applications of the positive aspects of thought, such as optimism, creativity, intrinsic motivation and responsibility. His theories have been so successful, that they have been used by many world leaders. His book, “Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience,” has become a successful bestseller.

“Acceptance. It’s not resignation, but nothing makes you lose more energy than resisting and fighting against a situation that you can’t change.” 
-Dalai Lama-

According to Csikszentmihalyi, the components of a “flowing experience” are the following:

  • Concentration and focus. A high degree of concentration in a limited field of attention. A person who performs a single activity will have the opportunity to focus and delve deeper into it.
  • Clear objectives. Your objectives should be reachable according to the whole set of skills and abilities you possess. This way, you’ll see them as possible and will strive harder to reach them.
  • Direct and immediate feedback. Successes and failures in the activity are obvious. The person should receive feedback that will let them know when they are performing the activity correctly and when they’re not.
  • Balance between the levels of ability and challenge. The activity can’t be too complicated, because the person will give up quickly. But also not too easy, because they’ll get tired of it and quit. There must be a balance.
  • The activity should be intrinsically gratifying. This way you won’t notice the effort you put into it while you’re doing it. You should try something that makes you feel good, so that you’ll barely notice the effort you’re exerting.
woman painting a happy painting

Change it or go with the flow

People go through complicated situations throughout their lives, that they often times cannot change. But they can modify the way they confront these situations. It’s all about seeing difficulties as an opportunity for learning and personal growth. Believe that everything happens for a reason, to teach us an important lesson.

Each person reacts to the same situation in a different unique way, and it’s important that we seek help in other people when we feel disoriented. Others can serve as a reference for us. It’s not about playing the victim. It’s about looking for help if it’s necessary, talking to other people, and freeing yourself of everything that’s worrying you. Since there are aspects you won’t be able to change, go with the flow. Let things take their own course, and don’t offer resistance.

“There is no past or future, everything flows in an eternal present.” 
-James Joyce-