The Tao affirms the wisdom of patience and process, a lesson that can be difficult for highly motivated leaders.
When I was in graduate school at UCLA, my friends used to grow beautiful plants from avocado seeds, so I tried it myself. I planted a seed in a clay pot, watered it every day, and waited.
Weeks went by. Nothing. Finally, I dug it up to see what was happening. The seed had sprouted, put forth roots, and was nearly ready to emerge, but my impatience killed the plant.
We need patience to see projects through to completion. Different projects, like different plants, have their own growth cycles. Green beans spring up quickly in my garden while carrots take much longer to grow.
We can also become impatient with problems, eager to solve them quickly. Yet the wisdom of Tao reminds us not to rush, for rushing puts us in a stress reaction, narrowing our vision and preventing us from thinking clearly.
As the Tao Te Ching reminds us:
The greatest skill is developed gradually,
The greatest music rarely heard.
The great Tao is without form,
Yet the source of all life.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41
The next time you find yourself rushing when you're trying to solve a problem or becoming impatient near the end of a project, take a cue from the Tao. Pause for a moment, take a deep breath. Perhaps even take a short break. Then come back, with new perspective and fresh energy to see the process through.
An earlier version of this lesson appeared in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.