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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 July 15, 2020

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

“Entitlement is an expression of conditional love. Nobody is ever entitled to your love. You always have a right to protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being by removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances.” -Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson

It’s not always obvious if you have someone toxic in your life. A toxic relationship is one that is harmful to you. A toxic person can create distress to the degree you feel inadequate and isolated. So, what makes a toxic person?

A toxic person has toxic behavior, meaning it’s not that the whole person is toxic[1]. It’s what they do that counts. Most toxic people run from accountability and misrepresent reality to you. They misrepresent your worth and your ability to heal from them can be stifled the longer you keep them in your life. You have a role to play with it as well; if your values are dismissed by them and you don’t act on it, you have allowed room for toxicity to grow.

When you are in a toxic relationship, you feel less than. You feel as though you are not worth anyone’s time or effort. You feel unheard, and sometimes you feel unsafe. You don’t feel good about yourself in a toxic relationship, whether it be with a partner, friend, or family member.

You may stay in a toxic relationship for a number of reasons. You may believe yourself to be a burden, have a lack of boundaries, resist change, fear conflict, try to be a people pleaser, find yourself codependent, or are partially stuck in a pattern or unhealthy cycle of abuse.

Letting go of toxic people may not be easy. In order to do so, you have to know why or how they are toxic to you and read between the lines that they do not have your best interests in mind.

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Letting go of toxic people is hard because you are good and want to see the good in others. You think their apologies are authentic. You have trouble believing they are being dishonest. You don’t spend time healing from it. You get pulled back into the pain because you don’t want it to end. However, if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right.

You should walk away from a toxic person because you need to preserve your peace. You need to feel like yourself again. And you need better support.

Letting go of toxic people can involve four major steps.

1. Recognize the Red Flags

Red flags are signs a person is being toxic. It’s when someone shows characteristics that you should feel caution about. It’s when you feel any level of dissatisfaction and distrust. Trust your gut. When you recognize red flags, you can evaluate whether a person is trying to manipulate you or not. This gives you some level of control over what you allow in your life. The earlier you detect these behaviors, the better off you will be.

Red flags can include:

  • They always put themselves first.
  • They point out imperfections and sabotage your self-esteem.
  • You may feel drained or used when you’re around them.
  • What you give isn’t reciprocated. They don’t return the goodness you provide as a friend.
  • They ignore your boundaries and get angry when you tell them “no.”
  • You catch them in half truths or outright lies when you confront them about anything.
  • You are the villain; they are the victim.
  • Second chances always lead to repeated patterns of behavior.
  • They may engage in abuse.

2. Set Boundaries

There are emotional boundaries that one can set, but there are also physical ones[2]. You can leave any time. Setting boundaries is also an important part of self-care.

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You shouldn’t walk on eggshells. Tell them how you feel. Are they respecting you, fulfilling your needs, and listening to you? If not, it’s time to set up a healthy emotional distance and start letting go of toxic people around you.

There are levels to this. You have your inner circle, which could include family, and then you have acquaintances and strangers. If a toxic person is in your inner circle, it’s time to pull back and put up some boundaries for them to follow. If they can’t hear you out, you can cut off the connection completely.

You can give second chances, but you have to be careful. If someone knows they can get away with something, they will do it again. If there’s any chance for the relationship, they have to know not to cross certain lines.

3. Invest in Yourself

You deserve to know you are worthwhile. Try to remember that things will get better and that anything is possible. How do you do so? Invest in yourself.

This means self care, goal setting, surrounding yourself with positive support, and feeling a sense of peace. Your greatest ambition should be to love yourself. Without self-love, letting go of toxic people will be difficult.

Every relationship is a risk, but if you know yourself and what you will allow, toxic people will have less of a hold over you. If you are a giver or people pleaser, you are most at risk to being in a one-sided relationship. You shouldn’t be punished for caring, but sometimes trust needs to be earned. If you have self-love, you are treating yourself the best way possible. You know that others need to meet your standards; otherwise, they don’t get to be a part of your life.

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It’s possible that you can love yourself and still not see the signs. It can be difficult for some to be aware that toxic people exist. However,, if you know how much you mean to others in your life and what you are worth, you will be less likely to take on a relationship that is harmful to you or repeat negative patterns. Self-love is how we get out of toxic relationships, but it’s also how they never begin.

4. Know When Forgiveness Is Possible

There are times a person will prove their worth to you. They may make a mistake that makes them seem like a horrible person. They may forget to be good to you because of their own issues. They may just have no example of what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have an inflated ego that really comes from insecurity. The list goes on.

If they apologize, that’s a start. Look at their actions. Are they changing for the better because they really want to change or just seeming to in order to manipulate you? A person may control others with their image or perceived personality, but if you see through them, you may be able to discern the degree to which they are willing to be there for you.

If they start to do the right thing, you may begin to trust them again. Don’t start forgiving them until time has passed and you are sure there is growth, even if they show vulnerability or remorse. You can give a second chance if they truly have an awakening. Otherwise, it’s best to get out. Don’t let them walk all over you; let them walk out the door.

If you do give a second change and they still refuse to change, you have every right to remove them and continue the process of letting go of toxic people. The moment you even want to leave may also be a good time to get out. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to care for them.

Forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger[3]. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You have to go back to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone. You don’t have to let them back in. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

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Remember, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not them. You don’t need that person in your life in order to forgive them, and if you give them a second chance, proceed with caution.

Final Thoughts

Recognize the red flags, set boundaries, invest in yourself, and know when forgiveness is possible. This is how you cope with a toxic person impacting your life. You have power in the direction of your life and the people who accompany you as you move forward. Use it.

If a person is worthwhile, they will prove themselves through their actions, not their words. If they cross certain lines that really harm you, you owe them nothing. You have every right to feel what you feel and to be upset. Honor your feelings and communicate them because it’ll only continue to keep happening if you don’t.

If this is happening to you, it’s time to put a stop to it. It’s time to take control. It’s time to live for yourself, not for what others say about you. It’s time to set your standards higher than they’ve ever been before. And most of all, it’s time to let go.

Resource reminder: A physically abusive relationship is ALWAYS toxic. There are resources for you. Always speak up.

If you are in such a cycle or domestic violence or abuse reach out for help. For example, there is The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) which can be reached at 1−800−799−7233. There are other ways to get help if you simply ask for it. 

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Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

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