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Achieve more by doing less in autumn

September 28, 2015

 

Doing less in autumn and almost nothing in winter is the best way to be productive. Here's why...

Daoist philosophy, the root of Chinese medicine, describes how everything is an expression of Yin and Yang. The sunny side of the hill is yang: bright, warm, active and busy. The shady side of the hill is yin: dark, cool, still and quiet. During autumn, summer's bright and busy yang gives way to winter's dark and quiet yin. The cycle of seasons - this shifting from yang to yin and back again - makes it possible for life to flourish.

When we allow ourselves to shift between yang and yin at the right times, our lives flourish too. So, just as nature slows down as winter approaches, we should slow down as the evenings draw in. Frantic activity should give way to quiet, contemplative work.

In our too-yang society, it is tempting to measure the value of our work by the quantity of our output. We tend to exhaust ourselves, doing many things, being "productive". There is a time to work quickly and do many things, just as there is a time for the oak to produce great masses of green leaves, thrust out flowery ropes, and pump litres of sap tens of meters into the sky. That time is not autumn.

When autumn arrives, the oak has forgotten its flowers. It looses interest in sap and its leaves begin to crisp and fall. Its work becomes more yin and it turns its attention to the storing of intricate genetic instructions deep within the dark hearts of tiny acorns. At the end of autumn, the oak ceases even this work. It abandons its acorns along with its leaves, depositing nuggets of awesome potential in the decaying litter. Every mighty oak exists because of this process.

In the same way, when autumn arrives, we should stop trying to be "productive". Instead, we should turn to quiet, intricate work with little output. Our focus should be on the quality and potential of what we create, and not its quantity. At the end of autumn, we should cease even this work and abandon it to winter's dark belly. If we do not let go in this way, there will be nothing in spring. But if we let ourselves abandon our work in autumn, spring will be miraculous!

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