Lao Tzu’s Four Cardinal Virtues – Day 241 of 365 Days to a Better You

We’ve mentioned Lao Tzu previously in our journey together. He said to have authored the Tao Te Ching and founded Taoism. He’s considered among the great spiritual masters of ancient China.

He wrote:

“To realize the constancy and steadiness in your life is to realize the deep nature of the universe. This realization is not dependent on any transitory internal or external condition, rather it is an expression of one’s own immutable spiritual nature. The only way to attain the Universal Way is to maintain the integral virtues of the constancy, steadiness and simplicity in one’s daily life.”

What are the virtues he’s speaking of and how do you and I apply them to our lives? There are four main virtues or spiritual rules he lays out in the Tao Te Ching.

  1. Reverence for all life – this first virtue drives the others. It lays the foundation for harmony within and from there spreads to all living beings. It recognizes that all living things rely on each other for their very survival. As such, we should approach all other beings with kindness, respect, and gratitude. The Buddhist metta meditation is a very effective way to make this virtue a practical part of your day.
  2. Natural Sincerity – our ability to spread harmony into the world begins with our ability to find it within. According to Lao Tzu, we find harmony within through sincerely and authentically being ourselves. He’s essentially encouraging us to live our truth. Stress and unhappiness come when we are living in insincerity. Peace and happiness come when our thoughts, feelings, and actions align.
  3. Gentleness – this virtue is practiced by relinquishing our egoic thinking and action in the world. We cease needing to be right or to control others. We become sensitive to the needs of others and choose to live in harmony with them.
  4. Supportiveness – Because we revere all life, we live with sincerity, and we practice gentleness, we’re able to be supportive of ourselves and all other beings. This virtue promotes love and service. It’s focused on what you can give rather than simply what you can get. It’s the energetic glue that holds us all together through our care for and commitment to each other.

Four simple virtues that are simple and profound. They took minutes to read and a lifetime to master. However, even imperfect application begins to yield results. You operating by these principles will change your life. Many people living this way would shift the world.

May we achieve change in both!

Just in case no one else tells you today, you’re AWESOME!


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Why Water Defeats Rock – Day 62 of 365 Days to a Better You

Action defeats “standing firm.”

Looking at rock and water as contenders in a battle, you’d think rock would easily defeat water because it’s solid, hard, and immoveable.

Lao Tzu observed the following, though, 2600 years ago.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.

We often believe there is something noble to standing firm, being unwavering and unchanging in our views. The fact is we don’t live in a universe of solidity. We live in a universe of motion. What stands still gets passed by, worn away, and eventually destroyed by what moves. The Grand Canyon is one extreme example of this battle between the water and the rock.

After World War I, the French were determined never to allow Germany to invade them again. They built the Maginot Line – a highly-fortified series of concrete barriers, troop placements, and weapons nests along the border with Germany. When World War II came, Germany did not attack the Maginot Line because it was formidable. Instead, they went around it and over it. The world had changed. Aircraft and tanks had evolved and an immovable fortification along your border was an anachronism.

Here’s the question for you today. Are you going to be the rock or the water? Are you going to fortify your position where you are or are you going to move and innovate? Whether in your life, your business, or just philosophically, being soft and fluid is the surest way to victory.

You might ask, “What about timeless virtues like love, compassion, and generosity? Should those change too?”

I’d counter that the change I’m speaking of happens within the time and space of this multiverse where we currently reside. Those timeless virtues are just that – beyond time.

Power hack: What I love about this principle is that it’s easily applicable to your daily life. I’m not saying that the rock has no virtue. Nor that you need to be changing everything all the time. It’s more about a conscious awareness of when you choose to be the rock and when you choose to be the water. If you stand in one place too long, the water will wash you away. But, in any given moment, the rock may be your best choice.

May you choose the rock and the water wisely today and every day.


Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot. He’s been studying and practicing personal development for 30 years. He’s also studied many of the world’s spiritual traditions and mythologies.

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Small Strokes Fell Great Oaks – Day 32 of 365 Days to a Better You

Small strokes fell great oaks.

That’s a quote from Ben Franklin. “The journey of 1000 miles,” said Lao Tzu, “begins with a single step.” Creighton Abrams wrote, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.”

We live in a world that conditions us to want it all and want it now. These quotes remind us to take a breath. Big things start small. Small, consistent actions, over time, move the needle a great distance. If we try to “eat the elephant” all at once, we’ll probably get indigestion.

I’ve often used a basketball analogy for this idea. If you get behind 20 points in the first half, there are no 20 point shots to get you back into the game. The way to get back in is one trip up the floor at time. Score and go play defense. Score and go play defense. If you come out trying to get it all back at once, you’ll probably do foolish things and lose by 40.

The overnight success is a rarity. The truth is most overnight successes have been working at it for years before they finally attained their success.

What’s my message? It’s easy to feel like your dreams aren’t happening fast enough. I’ve often felt it myself. Remember there is no deadline. There’s amazing lessons and experiences along the way.

This I promise, though, if you keep whacking away, even the greatest of oaks will eventually fall. Rome wasn’t built in day and neither are you.

Patience and keep working. Good things will happen.


P.S. – No elephants or oaks were harmed in the writing of this blog post. What great metaphors they make, though.