The Tao reminds us that we live in a dynamic universe, that wise leaders recognize and move with change. Leaders make foolish mistakes when they become fixated on the past, using old strategies in new situations, not realizing that times have changed.
The Tao Te Ching encourages us to be more mindful and flexible, saying:
Unable to bend,
The tree will break.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 76
There's a term in neuropsychology: "to perseverate," which means to continue performing an action even when it no longer produces the desired result. For example, some laboratory animals continue to press a lever for food even when food is no longer delivered. Stuck in an old behavior pattern, they cannot adjust to a new situation.
How often do we humans perseverate as well, behaving in a way that worked in a previous job or relationship but is totally out of place in this one?
Recognizing the dynamic cycles of Tao, we can take actions appropriate to the context, aware that the context is continually changing.
What is one way you can use the wisdom of flexibility in your life?
An earlier version of this lesson appeared in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.