How to Have a Harmonious Life Through Taoism

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How can you live a harmonious life? Why can’t humanity live in harmony with the world?

To live a harmonious life means to do what the universe requires of you and nothing more. Unfortunately, humanity has fallen out of harmony with nature because of its need to industrialize and consume. But you can still live a harmonious life within a corrupt world.

Keep reading to learn how to live in harmony with the Tao.

How to Live a Harmonious Life

To have a harmonious life, understand your place in the world and work to fulfill the function the universe requires of you—nothing more, nothing less. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t improve the world. It’s sacred, and if you try to change it, you’ll lose touch with it. Instead, focus on what the universe requires of you, and you’ll find peace within your existence. 

There’s a time for everything, including negative emotions and experiences. If you’re one with the Tao, nothing will faze you, not even death. Through the lens of the Tao, death is an unavoidable part of life. Instead of fearing death, embrace it as part of the cycle of the universe. This will allow you to live your life without apprehension.


When the world is in harmony with the Tao, life can flourish. However, when humanity works against the Tao, the world becomes corrupted. 

Example: If humanity was willing to live a harmonious life within the guidance of the Tao, only taking what we needed to survive, we could co-exist with the animals of the world. However, because of mankind’s need to industrialize, many species have either gone extinct due to pollution or have become a part of the ever-growing meat industry, thus corrupting the natural order of the Tao.

Instead of succumbing to corrupting forces, approach the world with compassion and empathy. Listen to the guidance of the Tao, finding your place within the world instead of trying to rule over it. 

Violence and Aggression

Peace should always be your top priority. Approach the world around you gently. Meet people where they are instead of trying to force them to bend or break. Aggression only pushes people away. 

Violence should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances. If you must resort to violence, it should pain you to do so. Even if you’re victorious, you should be upset by the fact that you had to use aggression. That is the path to a harmonious life with the Tao.

How to Have a Harmonious Life Through Taoism

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Here's what you'll find in our full Tao Te Ching summary :

  • What the natural order of the universe is
  • How the "Great Mother" offers energy to all beings
  • How you can achieve harmonious living

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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