Wu Wei: When You Need to Step Back  
14th November 2023

Wu Wei: When You Need to Step Back  

There are many instances in life when trying too hard turns counterproductive and makes things worse. For instance, when you try too hard to please someone, it appears superficial and may only push them away.

This principle extends to all areas of life, such as relationships, career pursuits and personal growth. While determination and effort are crucial, there’s a fine line between genuine effort and pushing too hard. In some cases, overthinking and overdoing only exacerbates the problem, leading to more stress and a lack of meaningful progress.

Aldous Huxley called this the law of reversed effort. According to him “The harder we push ourselves for something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and its result come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing with episodes of relaxation or just letting go for the transcendent forces to take hold.”

This law mirrors an old idea found in Daoism ‘Wu Wei’, which in Chinese means inaction or doing nothing. It urges us to step away from all the busyness to let things happen. Surrendering yourself to the greater power isn’t a cowardly or weak act, rather it is an act of courage. There is wisdom in knowing your limits and what you cannot push around.

Wu Wei is to appreciate, recognize and accept divine forces far greater than us are at play. Call it fate, gut feeling, intuition or divine calling, it tells us to stop forcing and allow patience and space for good things to happen. For instance, an author told to write something on a deadline, experiences pressure which hinders the natural thought process of writing. It’s much better to remain cool and pen ideas down as and when they appear.

Life is full of ups and downs. But when we obsessively stress about our problems our anxiety gets worse. This is where stepping away, taking a breath and doing nothing is beneficial at times. Solutions flash out of nowhere when you are in a cool and composed frame of mind.

Perhaps there are many things in life that cannot be improved with great effort or force. Sometimes, life requires that you stop what you are doing and enjoy Wu Wei to let things work their way.

Alvina Clara, Content Writer, emQube

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