We often listen to tips from modern psychologists and tend to forget our roots and the truths that were found thousands of years ago. After exploring the educational ideals of Aristotle, I decided to turn to Chinese philosophy and study the teachings of Confucius and Lao Tzu. Seven tips from Confucius and Lao Tzu may seem unexpected to some and contradict everything that popular psychology says about self-development, but in the end, why not look critically at the usual ideas?
Tip1: Don’t try to understand who you really are
“Listen to your heart and get to know who you really are!”, “Find yourself!” — such tips are very popular in pop psychology and periodically pop up in friendly conversations. However, Chinese philosophers are not at all sure of the existence of the “true self”. They believed that our personality is constantly changing when we talk, act, react to certain events. We behave differently when we communicate with our mothers or colleagues, doctors, or close friends. Each of us is a plastic composite creature, consisting of different behavioral patterns and emotions, and not a frozen statue. This is even better! By giving up the “true self”, you can open up many opportunities for change and development.
Tip 2: Give up on authenticity
After discovering the “true self”, we are usually encouraged to “stay true to ourselves” or (quite simply) “be ourselves”. Confucius would not have agreed: in such an aspiration he saw not freedom, but limitation. After all, what is the “true self” that you claim to be able to find? Just a fleeting state in which you are at a particular period of your biography. By following this pattern all your life, you lose the opportunities for growth that those who recognize the constant variability of personality have.
We develop when we recognize our complexity and learn to work with it. We grow above ourselves when we understand that short temper or shyness is not unconditional traits of our character, but habits that can be overcome or at least corrected.
Tip 3: Imitate
The requirement to be authentic implies that you should always act sincerely, show only real feelings, and avoid all kinds of imitations. Confucius, on the other hand, viewed insincere behavior much more favorably, because he believed that imitation helps to get rid of bad habits and learn to control emotions. Try to smile when you are angry; bite your tongue when you want to yell at the other person. In this way, you will undermine the habitual pattern of behavior, acting as a more adult and responsible version of yourself. Over time, imitation can develop into a completely sincere habit.
Tip4: Don’t make big plans
What is the problem with long-term plans? You make decisions about the future based on the desires and goals of who you are in the present. Instead of enclosing yourself in the framework of big decisions, it is better to act gradually. If you want to change your life completely, don’t change everything at once, take one step at a time, feel the ground. Pay attention to how you respond to small changes: this will help you better understand where you want to go next, and not be disappointed.
Tip 5: Develop your weaknesses
We are encouraged to discover our talents in our youth and develop them until they become a stable part of our identity. “Bookworms” enter philology, people with good coordination go to sports. Chinese philosophers propose to abandon this logic. If you’re clumsy, sign up for a dance. Bad at languages? Take a French course. You may not succeed, but you will definitely become more flexible and versatile.
Tip 6: Allow yourself to be weak
In Western culture, we are encouraged to be strong, to win, and to achieve our goals. However, Lao Tzu believed that sometimes being weak is better than being strong. Calmly observing how the world and human relations work, you gain a superpower to influence people without direct commands and manifestations of power. Learn to act discreetly, subtly, and wisely.
Tip 7: Don’t get too caught up in observing your inner world
Today, everyone talks about the benefits of mindfulness — the ability to observe your emotions and passions and detach from them. Confucianism, on the other hand, involves active participation not in the inner world, but the outer world. Only in this way, according to the teaching, you can grow above yourself.
The advice of Chinese philosophers is quite different from the modern opinions, so some people may feel like rejecting them straight away. Anyways, you never know before you try it. If you are looking for a change in your life, you definitely need to start from life perception, regardless of the fact whether you listen to ancient philosophers or your psychologist.