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Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

“Don’t make a plan of fighting; that is a very good way to lose your teeth. If you try to remember you will lose. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water” ― Bruce Lee

Voted as one of the most influential people of the 20th century by Time magazine, Bruce Lee was an actor, teacher, father, and philosopher. Among his many contributions in the field of martial arts, what stands out the most is his famous quote on “being like water”. From kung fu apprentices to muay thai students, people from all walks of life want to embody Lee’s teaching and incorporate it into their lives to become more productive, successful, and balanced.

What does “being like water” really mean? And how can you adapt this thinking into everyday situations? Continue reading to learn more.

You Will Become Fearless

One of water’s most notable characteristics is its fluidity. If you spill your drink, it will scatter on the floor, filling every crevice or crack. It is unafraid to explore what lies beyond. It doesn’t have a plan; it will simply spread where it can. Bruce Lee was not the first to admire this fascinating ability of water. Ancient philosopher and founder of Tao principles, Lao Tzu, also believed in water’s amazing ability to find its way around anything without care or anxiety.

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Are there things you always dreamed of doing but were always too afraid to try? Have you thought about quitting something only to back out of your decision for fear of what comes next? Timing is certainly important, but if you always wait for that “opportune moment”, it might never come.

Want to switch careers but you’re already in your late 30’s? Interested in starting a business but you don’t have a budget? Instead of over-thinking, learn to let go and simply flow. Be like water – it’s not scared to venture into the unknown because it will simply make the rules as it goes. The minute you realize that there’s nothing in your way but yourself, it will open doors to possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

You’ll Be Adaptable To Change

A lot of people mistake Bruce Lee’s famous quote to being a conformist. However, there’s a difference: adapting means “to change or be changed to fit or work better in particular scenarios”; whereas conforming means “having the same behavior as most people in a group”. Water adapts – it changes based on where it is placed. If you pour it into a bowl, it will take the shape of a bowl. Its components do not change.

If you are faced with a situation that you’re not familiar with (like being a new employee at a company), adapt – but DO NOT conform! Conforming means you will obey or copy the behavior of others to gain social acceptance. Although it’s going to be difficult at first, aim to gain people’s respect above their approval. Respect is objective; even if folks around you may not like you as much, if they respect you, this isn’t likely to change even if circumstances become different.

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Once you master the art of adaptability, you’ll have nothing to fear wherever you are. Traveling alone? Facing new responsibilities at the office? Starting a family? If you’re like water, you’ll simply find better ways to adjust to your new environment. Your condition will not change you. In fact, you might be the one to change things around you!

You Can Maneuver Through Any Problem

What does water do when faced with a wall? It finds a way through it. Water will crash, erode, or seep into crevices until it can find its way again. For example, the famous Grand Canyon in Arizona was carved from a great river that once flowed through it. Water is one of the most powerful elements on earth, capable of moving boulders, shaping coastlines, and carving massive caves.

Sometimes, your problems become a huge mountain that blocks your path. It seems too tall, too big, and too powerful to overcome. So what do you do? Instead of trying to climb it, why not go through it? Often, the challenges you face have multiple solutions – but you can’t see it because you keep looking above. Answers can lurk in the most unexpected yet obvious of places. If you’re too busy viewing just one angle, you won’t be able to get through it.

Once when Lee was under the instruction of his teacher, Yip Man, he became frustrated because he couldn’t master what Yip wanted him to learn. Thus, Yip gave him a week to meditate and reflect upon his situation. Lee surprisingly found the answer to his dilemma not from something supernatural, but rather, when he went sailing alone. It was when he looked at the water that he realized what he has to do in order to be great.

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Not only was he able to overcome his problem, he also came up with his own ideology that would serve to become one of the greatest sources of inspiration today.

You are Gentle, Yet Powerful

“Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

Power doesn’t mean having great muscles, being able to hold the highest position in office, or putting people down into submission. To be powerful means to stay standing despite the odds. Commanding authority means having people willingly follow you because they find you wise and inspiring. Like water that can bore through stones, you should be strong enough to break away at life’s challenges. At the same time, you should be gentle enough to respect life around you.

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Conclusion

Bruce Lee was like water: he displayed strength whenever he fought; however, he was always kind when he dealt with those around him. People tried to put him down, but he simply found other ways to follow his dreams and succeed. Water is an amazing element. Learn its ways and it will lead you to become the best person you can be.

Featured photo credit: Alex Wong via stocksnap.io

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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