“Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, 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.” ― Lao Tzu
For the last few months, I’ve read “Tao Te Ching” daily. This week, I came across the above quote and it stuck with me and challenged me to look inward at where I was hard and stiff in my life. Where are you hard and stiff in your life?
We grow up with a set of beliefs that we mold as we get older. Do you believe the same thing in your 40s or 50s as you did in your 20s? While some of my core beliefs have not changed much, my views on a host of topics changed drastically over the years. For example, I have more life experiences to draw from and my current beliefs are shaped by the accumulation of the cycles I’ve experienced over the years.
In my financial days, I lived by the “strong opinions, loosely held” ideal. In the financial world, this characterized by how you should manage your portfolio. More specifically, when certain facts changed, you better be able to shift with them or you’ll lose a lot! This still applies to several aspects of my life. When experiences and information I receive don’t line up with a pre-conceived view, if I don’t change, my mind can become brittle and hard. A brittle mind isn’t open to learning, is stuck in old ways and will never evolve to reality.
As it relates to the body, a stiff body is much more likely to suffer from injuries and will not age well. Strong and supple is the path to longevity. As we age, the ability to move through space, easily get up and down, lift our arms overhead, and bend but not break allows us to continue an active lifestyle. Working on mobility is not the sexiest aspect of fitness, but is key to keeping all other aspects functioning properly. For example, if you’re a runner but can’t get down in a squat, it’s only a matter of time before your hips, knees, and ankles start to cause problems. If you do CrossFit but struggle to lift your arms overhead, all of those presses and pullups will eventually destroy your shoulders. On the other end of the spectrum, if all you do is yoga, you might be flexible but your body doesn’t have the strength to support the flexibility.
In life, we must be strong and flexible with our beliefs and bodies. Do not harden to ideals or the way things should be. There is nothing wrong with changing your opinion or saying, “I’m wrong.” The ability to change, adapt, and know when you’re wrong are traits of a true master of his craft. The key is to “flow” with the changing times and open your eyes to new opportunities and perspectives. The more supple you are, the easier it will be to reach your full potential.