Lao Tzu was an ancient philosopher and writer who founded the philosophical framework for Taoism, which has had a huge influence on Chinese culture.
His teachings revolve around respect, relationships and how to live a meaningful life.
These 101 quotes by Lao Tzu are brilliant in their simplicity and can help open your mind to new dimensions.
Here they are.
101 Quotes by Lao Tzu
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.
Act without striving. Work without interfering. Find the flavour in what is flavourless.
All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.
Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.
An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
Be the chief but never the lord.
Because of a great love, one is courageous.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Do not look only at yourself, and you will see much. Do not justify yourself, and you will be distinguished. Do not brag, and you will have merit. Do not be prideful, and your work will endure.
Few things under heaven bring more benefit than the lessons learned from silence and the actions taken without striving.
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.
From caring comes courage.
From wonder into wonder existence opens.
Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.
Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it.
Great acts are made up of small deeds.
Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven.
He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted.
He who is contented is rich.
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.
He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.
He who talks more is sooner exhausted.
Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.
How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?
I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any.
I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
If the Great Way perishes there will morality and duty. When cleverness and knowledge arise great lies will flourish. When relatives fall out with one another there will be filial duty and love. When states are in confusion there will be faithful servants.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.
It is better to do one’s own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature reveals it, never sins.
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
Knowing others is to be clever. Knowing yourself is to be enlightened. Overcoming others requires force. Overcoming yourself requires strength.
Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.
Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.
Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
Nature is not human hearted.
Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.
Of all that is good, sublimity is supreme. Succeeding is the coming together of all that is beautiful. Furtherance is the agreement of all that is just. Perseverance is the foundation of all actions.
One can not reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.
One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him.
People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.
Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.
Silence is a source of great strength.
Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
Surrender your self-interest. Love others as much as you love yourself. Then you can be entrusted with all things under heaven.
The career of a sage is of two kinds: He is either honored by all in the world, Like a flower waving its head, Or else he disappears into the silent forest.
The higher the sun ariseth, the less shadow doth he cast; even so the greater is the goodness, the less doth it covet praise; yet cannot avoid its rewards in honours.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.
The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.
The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.
The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.
The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.
The True Person governs by emptying the heart of desire and filling the belly with food, weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
The True Person avoids extremes, self-indulgence, and extravagance.
The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’
The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.
The words of truth are always paradoxical.
The True Person benefits yet expects no reward, does the work and moves on. There is no desire to be considered better than others.
There is no greater offence than harbouring desires. There is no greater disaster than discontent. There is no greater misfortune than wanting more.
The ten thousand things flourish and then each returns to the root from which it came. Returning to the root is stillness. Through stillness each fulfils its destiny.
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.
To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
To lead people walk behind them.
To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.
To see things in the seed, that is genius.
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.
Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.
Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.
Weapons are not proper instruments for gentle people; they use them only when they have no other choice. Peace and quiet are what they value. They do not glory in victory.
What is well rooted cannot be pulled up. What is firmly grasped will not slip loose. It will be honoured from generation to generation.
When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.”
When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder.
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes The less one knows.
Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.