Water is one of the most adaptable substances in the world. Apart from sustaining life, it also has many varied uses. Due to its common usage, it is easy to take water for granted. But if you look a little more closely, you will find that water holds the secret to dealing with many of life’s problems. The sages and the masters knew this when they spoke of emulating the qualities of water.
Bruce Lee on the Adaptability of Water
Adapt like water: Be like water; water has form and yet it has no form. It is the softest element on earth, yet it penetrates the hardest rock. It has no shape of its own, yet it can take any shape in which it is placed. In a cup, it becomes the shape of the cup. In a vase, it takes the shape of the vase and curls about the stems of flowers. Put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Please observe the adaptability of water. If you squeeze it fast, the water will flow out quickly. If you squeeze it slowly, it will come out slowly. Water may seem to move in contradiction, even uphill, but it chooses any way open to it so that it may reach the sea. It may flow swiftly or it may flow slowly, but its purpose is inexorable, its destiny sure.
Lao Zi on the Nature of Water
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.
Water is Adaptable
Water can adapt to any situation it is in without complaint. Due to its nature, it will take the shape and properties of its surroundings. As such, water that flows through mud is muddy. But as the water flows on and on, it will shed its sediments and return to its former state. This is the adaptability of water.
Being able to adapt means taking the hand you are dealt and playing it well. More often than not, the hand will not be to your liking. But this is where creativity comes in. You have to use whatever you find around you to solve the problems at hand. If you are able to adapt to any situation you find yourself in and do whatever it takes to resolve the problem, you are more likely to succeed.
Water is Yielding
When you squeeze water, it flows out of your hands. The greater the force you exert, the faster water flows away. It doesn’t resist. Oddly enough, this yielding quality of water can overcome any obstacle it faces. Through patience and perseverance, water can wear down the hardest of rocks. It does so by finding anyway it can to get by the obstacles in its path. This is the yielding power of water.
When force meets force, there is bound to be resistance. Even if the greater force wins, it will come at great cost and effort. But most of this effort goes mainly to dealing with the resistance produced by force. It is an inefficient way to deal with a problem. Worsening matters, the use of force may lead to more problems and mistakes. Instead of meeting a problem head on, it is better to take an indirect approach if possible. Try to find a way that doesn’t produce resistance. When you focus your influence where resistance is weak, you are likelier to succeed in solving a problem. It is merely a matter of time.
Water has a Goal
All the rivers and seas flow towards the ocean. This is the destiny and goal of water. It is because of this goal that water flows on and on. It is not a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when.” With this clear goal in mind, water has the motivation to overcome all obstacles in its path to achieve its destiny.
It is of vital importance to keep your goal in mind when you face a problem. Having a clear goal in mind gives you have the strength you need to do whatever it takes to reach it. If you must solve the problem in front of you to reach your goal, you will do so. If there is a will, you will find the way. A clear goal gives you the motivation to press on no matter what challenges you face.
Water Does Not Tarry
Water does not tarry. It has no time to do so. If there is no outlet for water to flow towards the ocean, it will change its very nature and evaporate. Then, as rain, it might find another way to the ocean once more. Water flows on and on to reach its goal. Its focus is such that it will do whatever it takes to overcome an obstacle without hesitation.
Whenever you face a problem, follow water and do not tarry. Prepare and plan to deal with the problem and then execute that plan as soon as you can. Each moment you wait wastes precious time that might turn a situation against you. In the process of solving a problem, there might be certain tasks that you find unpleasant. Bear in mind your goal and flow on like water to solve the problem quickly.
Water Accepts Each Situation
Water accepts each situation it finds itself in. But this does not imply passive acceptance. Rather it means that water does not make a fuss about the state of affairs it is in. If it has to get dirty, it will do so without complaint. If it has to flow a longer distance to get around an obstacle, it does so. Water will flow wherever it needs to flow to get to where it wants to go. Water accepts a situation so that it can focus on getting through it. It will do what it has to do to achieve its goal.
When you accept something, it means you no longer waste your efforts trying to resist it. This frees up your strength and helps you to focus on finding the answer. Thinking about the problem and vexing yourself over the unhappy turn of events does little to improve your position. Problems are not likely to go away or change if you don’t do something about it. Thus when you accept the situation, you give yourself the green light to resolve the problem.
When you are rigid, it is easy to crack under great pressure and strain. In a contest of strength, the victory goes to that which is strongest. Rarely can you triumph over your problems through sheer force alone. So whenever you face a problem, remember to be like water. Accept the situation you are in and do what you must to survive. Be formless yielding and adaptable. You may not master the nature of being like water in the short run, but if you keep practicing, it will become a habit one day.