Management Articles


Motivation through Taoist Principals

By: Matthew Schigur

This article was written by Matthew Schigur, PMP Adjunct Instructor for Rasmussen College Online. In this position, he teaches students seeking online business degrees. Matthew serves as the President of The Schigur Group, LLC, a Wisconsin-based business consulting firm.

Countless articles, books and online seminars claim to hold the secrets of motivation.  Sport teams bring in motivational speakers to encourage players; colleges and universities cover the topic in their courses; and many business summits feature speakers devoted to preaching the keys to motivation and success. This article explores a less traditional, but valuable approach to motivation: drawing inspiration from the acknowledgement of process and through the principles of Taoism.

Chinese Taoism

Chinese Taoism philosophy is thousands and thousands of years old.  One of its main principles is that all actions consist of a process, and each step within this process prepares you for the next.  If you skip a step, you will not be properly prepared to handle future steps; in other words, you cannot go from a starting step to an ending step without completing many different stages in between.


Consider the example of education.  Many students ask, "Why do I have to take general education courses? I know what I want to do, so why can't I just move into my major requisites?" 

A Taoist approach to this question would be:  without taking general education courses, you will not be properly prepared for your major study courses.  As Taoism teaches, no one can go from being a novice to being an expert. Only after you master the skills taught in the general education courses will you be prepared to move forward.


Now, let's take Taoism to work.  You might be familiar with phrase: "They don't make things like they used to."  Why does this saying persist over time?

Possibly because up until the last hundred years or so, vocational jobs like carpentry required a person to study for years under a master. There, an apprentice would earn hands-on experience, spending countless hours in process, fine tuning each skill they acquired until his or her master carpenter was satisfied.

Moreover, the master carpenter would not only look at the apprentice's final product, but would communicate how well the apprentice performed each task in the process; the final product would not be accepted if the apprentice did not follow proper step-to-step procedures.  More, the ultimate motivating factor for the apprentice was to achieve the skills and master every aspect of the trade, and in doing so gain the acceptance of his superior.

The apprentice could not go from being a beginner to being an expert without going through a proper training process, one that could often take years and years to complete.  Motivation came through the prospect of steady, gradual mastery, and never through automatic gratification.

Applying Taoist Motivation to Modern Day

In order to properly motivate yourself, especially as a novice, you must acknowledge that becoming a master in any discipline requires many intermediate steps.  These in-between steps are often the most informational, transforming parts of your life and career.  Further, they often set the foundation for who and what you will become.  Although listening to speakers may help inspire you and get you in a motivated state of mind, remember that mastery takes time: the process is important, and the wait is worthwhile.

Skipping hard work will not sustain motivation, and more, it will never generate respect. Accepting the principles of Taoism can help a student, worker and citizen of the world better recognize that he or she should measure their success not just by where they end up, but by the process through which they were able to get there.

© Copyright 2011, Matthew Schigur

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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