20 profound life lessons from Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu is one of the greatest Chinese philosophers to have ever lived.

His teachings have become so influential in Chinese society that they are still taught to this day.

Throughout his devotion to helping others live a meaningful and fulfilling life, he created the four cardinal rules of living.

Old texts state that Lao Tzu reached the highest state of consciousness available to man, so he is certainly a person worth learning from.

So if you find yourself struggling to find meaning and purpose in life, let these 4 cardinal rules from the great Eastern philosopher guide you.

“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.” – Lao Tzu

1) Reverence for all life

The first rule states that we should respect all life forms and not to seek dominate or control them.

The first step to achieving this, according to Lao Tzu, is to love ourselves, and then this love will naturally extend to all other beings.

We must treat others with respect, kindness and gratitude. It’s the only way we will all live in peace and harmony.

2) Natural Sincerity

This rule is all about authenticity and honesty.

We need to stay true to who we really are, without letting outside forces change us.

Once we begin to accept and understand who we truly are, we begin to understand what a happy life entails for us.

The next step is to follow our truth, everything else will fall into place, according to Lao Tzu. Once your thoughts and actions align, you’ll begin to know the meaning of sincerity.

3) Gentleness

Being gentle means being kind to all life and not practising kindness based on egotistical desires.

We give up the need to be right, and realize that kindness is the most important virtue there is.

When we consider other people’s needs, and give away our desire to manipulate or control them, we live in harmony. Practice gentleness and you’ll begin to understand what’s really important in life.

Here’s a quote from Wayne Dyer that explains what the true power of gentleness is:

“Gentleness generally implies that you no longer have a strong ego-inspired desire to dominate or control others, which allows you to move into a rhythm with the universe. You cooperate with it, much like a surfer who rides with the waves instead of trying to overpower them. Gentleness means accepting life and people as they are, rather than insisting that they be as you are. As you practice living this way, blame disappears and you enjoy a peaceful world.” – Wayne Dyer

4) Supportiveness

This virtue says that we need to focus on supporting others. We all have a difficult journey in life and the best we can do is to help each other succeed in that journey.

This is where we embody the trait of giving without expecting something in return.

According to Lao Tzu, giving comes natural to us, but we lose this as society tells us to focus on ourselves.

However, when we return to our natural state of helping others, we find a life of true purpose and find joy from making other people’s lives easier.

5) Chang with the tides. Don’t hold onto the past.

“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.”
― Lao Tzu

If you don’t let go of the brick, you’ll sink.

Learning to let go of what’s done and can’t be changed is a key to happiness.

You can live in the past or you can live right now, but you can’t do both successfully.

6) The price of your new life is your old life.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu

In order to make real change, you have to let go of what you were and what you did before. You can’t get different results by doing the same things. Give yourself a chance to blossom into someone new.

7) Give more than you get and your life will always be rewarding.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao-Tzu

Stop seeking pleasure and praise from others to make your life worthwhile. Try giving some of that to other people. Raise someone else up and watch how quickly your life has new meaning.

8) Understanding yourself is the greatest gift you can give.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu

The wisdom of the world is important, but the strongest among us are self-aware and understand their own needs, wants, and desires on a whole new level.

Focus on learning about who you are as a person as if your life depends on it. Because it does.

9) Learn to let go of physical things. Nothing lasts. This moment is what matters.

“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.” – Lao Tzu

Instead of collecting things, collect experiences. Share laughs, struggles, and empathy for other people. Be with people instead of just being around other people. Listen. Learn. Live.

10) Don’t dim your own light to let someone else shine brighter than you.

“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” – Lao Tzu

You don’t steal anyone’s thunder by being alive. Stop punishing yourself for being different or loud or outgoing. Be you. You don’t have to let your light go out so others will feel good about themselves.

11) Seeking validation from someone else is not necessary.

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” – Lao Tzu

In a world where we carry the world in our pockets, the comparison is the thief of our happiness.

Free yourself from the need to be liked and accepted by everyone. Find the people who like you for you and make them your focus.

12) Don’t resist change. It’s what makes life wonderful.

When change happens, we have two choices: embrace it or resist it. If you embrace it, the journey changes from one of struggle to learning.

When we’re learning, we’re more compassionate and understanding of ourselves.

Whether you are trying to find more happiness or you are trying to overcome a struggle in your life, following these simple, yet effective rules for life can have a dramatic difference in how you feel on a daily basis.

Choose the ones that make the most sense for who you want to become and allow the current version of yourself to welcome that new person with open arms.

13) Your mind holds all the answers to life’s questions. You’re just not asking the right questions.

“The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.” – Lao Tzu

If you’ve ever walked around in a daze wondering what the answer to a question was, you know what it’s like to “hit a wall” and not be able to make progress.

Tzu’s teaching encourages asking different questions.

If you can’t find the answer to what you’re looking for, you’re asking the wrong question.

That’s why when you step away from a problem and suddenly find an answer, it’s because you’ve had time to think about it in a different way.

14) Letting go sets you free.

People spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions of the past. We’re constantly trying to change the past, even though, logically, we know we can’t.

We carry heavy burdens and judgements around to punish ourselves.

Tzu teaches that letting go is good for the soul and can set you free. Imagine putting down a heavy bag after carrying it for years.

That kind of relief is possible in your mind if you decide to focus on letting go.

15) Stop trying to fit into boxes built by other people.

“He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty” – Lao-tsu

The labels and the way we categorize people are astonishing. We have names and labels for everyone and everything. It’s amazing we can even learn that many labels.

Tzu encourages people to show up and be themselves by forgetting about whatever box society has tried to put them in.

If you want to break free and live a happier life, let go of the assumptions you have about yourself and your life.

16) Evil requires fuel.

“Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.” – Lao Tzu

When you pay attention to hate and evil, it grows. When you work to promote kindness and compassion, everyone wins.

When someone is promoting evil, love can stomp it out. Tzu teaches that evil cannot exist without us. If we decide to let it go, life will be better. Unhappiness may still exist, but unhappiness is not the same as evil in the world.

17) Real happiness comes from the confidence to be yourself.

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” – Lao Tzu

Human beings are so depressed and beaten down by trying to be something their not. We weren’t meant to live the lives we do now.

We’ve evolved faster in the last century than we ever have in human history. Some things about us have not even caught up yet.

That’s why we still worry about going hungry even though we have a cupboard full of food.

We are yet ready to live the lives we’ve created and that causes us to be very unhappy. Find your own definition of happy and aspired to that life, not someone else’s version of happy.

18) Wisdom and strength are earned.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – Lao Tzu

Young people struggle so much in today’s world because they are so much more aware, so much smarter and so connected.

They expect so much from a world that is not able to produce for them. It’s frustrating and disheartening at the same time.

Tzu encourages people to remember that wisdom and strength can only be obtained through experience and that every young person who feels jaded or overlooked will find their place if they keep going.

19) Discomfort makes life interesting.

“Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.” – Laozi

You cannot grow when things are going well. It sounds horrible, but it’s the truth.

Tzu teaches that it is the discomfort that causes change. If we are uncomfortable enough, we’ll do something about our circumstances and change them for the better.

When we live in a status-quo lifestyle, we come to accept that discomfort as part of being alive, but in the wrong ways.

Discomfort is a sign that it’s time to change things up. Otherwise, you end up living in negativity all the time. That’s not the purpose of discomfort; the purpose is to teach you something.

20) Leaders walk with people, not in front of them.

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering oneself makes you fearless.” – Lao Tzu

The best leaders know that they need to take care of their people before themselves. We see teachings like this in the military and in books such as Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.

But in everyday life, it’s found in parenting, schools, and on the playground.

Those who are stronger should take care of those who are weaker and help to make them stronger in the process.

Leaders know that they need help sometimes too and so they help others find the courage to rise up to become leaders themselves.

It’s not a selfish role. And it’s what Tzu encourages people to become: compassionate, empowering leaders.



Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

Here are 10 things to do in the evening to improve yourself (and your life)

Act now or regret these 50 things when you grow old