Wu Wei is one of core principles of Taoism. Lao Tse repeatedly mentions it throughout his well-known Tao Te Ching. Wu Wei means “non-doing”, however, despite this literal translation, it does not refer to “doing nothing”. Lao Tse’s advice is to live life without anxiety. Wu Wei refers to acting according to the circumstances with a serene attitude and regardless of their outcomes.
In other words, Wu Wei is a practice of detachment. Let’s say you have a goal. Once you decide what you want, you begin taking actions toward your goal. However, your actions and thoughts are free from the anxiety of achieving it. You work toward your goal without excessive effort.
This may sound like a paradox. You may ask, “How can I achieve a goal with this principle of non-action?”
Let’s see an example. Most smokers who give themselves an ultimatum, have a lower probability to succeed. I-must-quit-or-else- attitude generates anxiety that sabotages their goal. It works better when smokers make a firm decision to quit but are relaxed about the outcome.
Lao Tse encouraged people to live their lives spontaneously. Instead of forcing the situations or getting upset and anxious when the circumstances don’t turn out as you wish, you can let it flow!
“Tao invariably takes no action, and yet nothing is left undone. If the lords can keep to this, all things will transform with spontaneity.” Lao Tse