“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” – Chinese Proverb

For a very long time, I have been fascinated, moved, touched and intrigued by the limitless wisdom encapsulated in Chinese Proverbs.

Over the years, I have also found great solace and simplicity in the timeless words of Chinese Proverbs.

Even though they are very simple in their message, they are worth reading over several times because they present a new facet of understanding when allowed to assimilate and brew in the mind.

Just like the ancient symbol, Yin and Yang, these proverbs are simple yet profound, they are small and yet they are vast, they are sometimes nameless and yet they speak to most of us.

Here are some of my favorite Chinese proverbs and the life wisdom that I have gathered from them.

1. You Need To Begin Somewhere and The Best Time Is Now

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Many people live in the past and lament over “ifs” and “should haves” and release their power of action in the present moment.

Ask yourself if you are allowing the regret of not doing things in the past influence your present and if you are feeding your mind stories of hopelessness and despair.

The best time to act on that plan that you should have done years before is NOW!

Act on it or release it.

Do not allow regret and cynicism get the better of your present moment of action.

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” – Chinese Proverb

2. Small And Consistent Steps Are The Keys To Great Achievement

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

If you have even wondered how great achievements and journeys are built and sustained, the answer does not lie in quick sprints and fast fixes.

The simple answer to great success and achievement comes from the great teacher Lao Tzu and from Chinese proverbs that a single step and a removing a small stone and doing it consistently is the key to a great journey.

Expecting results too quickly and moving too fast will simply cause you to burnout.

“The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Chinese Proverb

3. Be Decisive And Choose To Step Forward

“Your teacher can open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” – Chinese Proverb

You can have mentors and people that show you the way and facilitate you to sharpen your skills but when it comes to engagement and moving forward in new directions, the choice lies on your shoulders.

Whether you are enthusiastic and upbeat about learning and if you open new doors for your life depends squarely on you.

Teachers can show the way but they cannot decide the way for you and cannot carry you into the new path.

4. Let Go Of What Others Are Thinking About You

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”- Lao Tzu

Do you care excessively about what others think about you?

Letting go of the assumptions of what others are thinking about you is a sure way to freedom and much relief.

5. DO You Believe That Stress And Tension Are A Necessity?

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”- Chinese Proverb

The next time you feel tense and stressed out, remember the wisdom from this proverb.

The reality is that a lot of dis-ease and problems are created by excessive stress and tension.

The natural order is something entirely different and involves flow and less effort.

Our cells, tissues and organs are progressing with their remarkable work of keeping us together and functioning as a human being quite effortlessly.

It is your choice to facilitate that natural order of relaxation by releasing stress and tension whenever possible.

A state of “fight or flight” is not required and not desirable as a long-term state.

6. The Key To Deep Engagement and Understanding

“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.” – Chinese Proverb

The best way to understand and engage with a skill or a passion is to get involved and involve like-minded people to assist you.

If you are experiencing a lack of motivation, ask yourself how involved are you in the process?

Do you have intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that is triggered when you get deeply involved?

Research in motivation has indicated that when we have a chance to get deeply involved and complete a task and see the completed work, we experience greater motivation to continue with a project.

“He who asks is a fool for 5 minutes, but he who does no task remains a fool forever.” – Chinese Proverb

7. Do Not Sit Still And Procrastinate

“Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

Are you afraid of growth and change?

Have you become content with where you are and have entered your zone of comfort?

Do you see new opportunities and reject them for the known and the habitual?

Do you put things off for later and wait for the best time and place to do things?

“Person who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait a very, very long time.” – Chinese Proverb

8. The Paradox Of Failure

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb

Let us change the way we process and think about failure.

Failure is quite essential as a tool for growth if you allow it to teach you.

Instead of focusing your energy into the doubt and guilt that is generated by failure, choose to focus all your energy in getting up and brushing the dust off your sleeves.

If you refuse to get up after failing, the very first experience of the inevitable failure will crush you.

And remember that when you are ready to quit, your success might be just around the corner.

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” – Chinese Proverb

9. When You Are Feeling Defeated And Angry, Remember That Others Might Be Having Greater Struggles

“I was angry that I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.” – Chinese Proverb

Do you sometimes feel angry that the world is against you and that things are not fair?

It is easy for us to lose a sense of perspective when things are not going exactly like we would like them to be.

If you are looking for a quick shot of perspective, realize that there are many people who have or had greater adversities that you have and have decided to deal with them the best way possible.

“Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” – Chinese Proverb

10. Do Not Let Yesterday’s Worries Ruin Today’s Solutions

“Do not let yesterday use too much of today.” – Chinese Proverb

I love the idea that the regrets of yester years should not become the dominant focus of what you can do and accomplish today.

Today is a brand new day and this moment is a unique and novel moment. What you do with your present will determine the future and the direction that your life will move towards.

Why allow the past to linger and ruin the peace and action that you can choose to implement today?

“If your problem has a solution then, why worry about it. If your problem has no solution, then why worry about it?”- Chinese Proverb

My experience has been that excessive worry accomplishes little and saps us of our precious energy.

Become solution oriented and jettison unnecessary worries and if there is no solution, allow yourself to let go of the problem.

11. Embrace Peace And Let Go Of Anxiety And Sadness

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Chinese Proverb

Every day and every moment, you will be confronted with a choice.

The choice to:

Live in the past and be depressed that the present does not match up.


Allow the past to be a teacher and move forward boldly in the present even if you do not feel like it.

Worry and be anxious of how the future will unfold.


Let go of worries that you cannot control and make a small dent in the part of the universe that you can influence and take action on.

Be caught up in excessive defeatist attitude about your life.


Live life with a powerful understanding about your self-worth and your awesomeness.

Make comparisons with others and bring yourself down.


Jettison the comparison and become as unique that you can be and sing your song.

“You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” -Chinese Proverb

12. How to Be Enlightened?

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Do you spend a lot of time knowing and understanding the world and learning new things?

It is a great sign of wisdom to learn from new experiences and have a beginners mind about the world all around you.

The master Lao Tzu points out that in addition, you will greatly benefit by knowing yourself deeply.

Do you know:

What your strengths are?

What your weaknesses are?

Where do you shine?

Why do you behave the way that you do?

Why do you get motivated and why do you get demotivated?

Do you allow yourself to sit in silence or spend alone time to understand the self or does that idea terrify you and you always seek company?

The greatest power and control will be accomplished in your life by knowing your own self and then you will experience the true freedom of being able to behave and act as you choose.

The ancient masters have said that this deep sense of intuition and understanding the self in relation to the world around us is a sign of the enlightened person, a sign of the fluid and flexible person, and a sign of effortless movement.

13. How Not To Get Stuck In A Sticky Situation

“If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.” – Chinese Proverb

There is great wisdom in the wonderful proverb above since the guilt and shame of living with the outcomes of doing things that are less than desirable far outweigh the temporary relief that they provide.

Reminding yourself of this proverb will make you rethink decisions and reactions that you will end up regretting later on.

“Life is like an echo. What you send out usually comes back to you.” – Chinese Proverb

While delegating work to others, remember that if you impose on them what you do not yourself desire, it will be difficult to create an empowered workplace.

It is best to look at the strengths and skills that each person possesses and delegate accordingly to create an inspired and energized workplace.

“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire” – Confucius

14. On Purpose And The Journey

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. A bird sings because it has a song.”- Chinese Proverb

Are you primarily looking for answers or a destination or do you believe in thoroughly enjoying and soaking in every moment and experience of the journey?

When you go for your skills and passion that enthrall and fascinate you, you may not find immediate success or answers.

But if the need to sing your song is greater than the potential outcome and the fame, you have a powerful force of enthusiasm and engagement working tirelessly in your favor.

If you succeed greatly, it will be the icing on the cake.

If you do fail, you will be content that you followed your hearts desire and savored and enjoyed every moment of the journey.

It is the journey and the experiences that you gather that matter and prepare you for the future potholes and setbacks.

“Only those that have travelled the road know where the holes are deep.” – Chinese Proverb

And what about the reward?

“The journey is the reward.” – Chinese Proverb

So choose your journey carefully and answer the calls that you are most deeply called to answer and reap the rewards of every precious moment on the journey.

By Haris


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