I get a lot out of reading the Tao te Ching, and really love the Stephen Mitchell translation of it. A big part of taoist practice is taking one's cues for behavior and action from nature. Sometimes those cues seem almost contradictory. Take this verse:
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
How the heck could anyone ever get anything done, if they acted that way? Because that kind of flexibility, and being easygoing, that kind of being supple isn't the opposite of firmness, or dedication, but rather its complement. You work with what you have, not what you wish you had.
Case in point. This morning it was really, really cold. I had a hard time getting up as early as I wanted to, and I needed to go to the gym. I packed my bag so I could go to the gym branch near my work. Missy reminded me that the trash had to go out, too. I knew I'd have to take a slightly later train, and was really tempted to skip the workout. But I chose not to. Instead, I resolved to get into work a little later, and work a later day. I got in a good half hour swim (bringing me up to 7.5 of my 365 miles, by the way, right on schedule).
It was a bit miserable dragging my gym stuff on the train, dealing with a second bag, and the very cold weather.
But after the swim, and a very hot shower, I was really glad I had done it. My head was clear, and I felt really positive and ready to attack the work of the day when I got to my desk.
I'm grateful that I can adjust, compromise, and still stay on track towards goals I want. It feels good to be supple and firm.