The Tao Te Ching tells us:
"What you desire
And what you fear
Are within yourself.
. . . .
When you know nature as part of yourself,
You will act in harmony."
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13
The wisdom of Tao teaches that becoming more mindful of our emotions can help us face new challenges with greater insight and empowerment.
When you face a new challenge, what do you feel? Fear, anxiety—or excitement? However you label it, it's a rush of energy that can help you focus your attention.
Before getting her Ph.D. in psychology, My friend Tracey was a ski instructor in Taos, New Mexico. The lessons she taught people learning to ski reflect Taoist wisdom for facing any new challenge—a mindful blend of intention and attention.
Get clear on what you want to do. Before attempting a new ski run, Tracey would size up the situation, asking, "Where do I want to go?" When facing a new challenge in your life, ask yourself, "What do I want?" What is your intention?
Consider the conditions. Pay careful attention. Ski slopes can vary from day to day. It could have snowed last night or the trails might be icy. Melting snow may have exposed hazardous rocks or tree branches. On the ski slopes and in life, knowing the conditions you face can help you take right action. What are current conditions like for you?
Tune in to your body. Don't let tension and fear paralyze you. Since you cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time, do a relaxation technique when you face a new challenge. Take a deep breath and release it, feeling the energy in your body. Then focus on your intention, telling yourself, "I CAN do this."
Don't concentrate on what you want to avoid. Where do you focus your attention? People often focus on hazards. Tracey knows from skiing that if she concentrates on the sharp rocks jutting out at the end of a trail, she'll run right into them. In your own current challenge, don't fixate on obstacles and visualize failure. Take hazards into account and consider how you'll handle them, but keep your eyes on your goal.
Choose your course of action and follow through. If the conditions aren't right or the timing is off, say "no" and find a way to withdraw. If you say "yes" to the challenge, then follow through to the best of your ability. Either way, commit to your choice with intention and attention, remaining centered so you can make adjustments if conditions change.
Some information in this post appeared earlier in Dreher, D. (1998). The Tao of Womanhood. New York, NY: William Morrow.