If you were unlucky enough to get caught in quicksand, you would find very soon that struggling to free yourself led to your sinking even faster. A man who cannot swim and struggles to stay afloat will end up sinking. The best option would be relax, let go, and stop fighting. A fly caught in a spider’s web can only hasten its demise by continuing to struggle.

This, of course, seems to be a paradox. But it isn’t, really – it’s just that we are accustomed to going about things in exactly the wrong way. We’ve been taught that struggle is good and necessary, and that nobody ever gets anywhere without hard work. I’m not sure where this idea comes from, but a little observation of the natural world will show how wrong this idea is.

Think about a stream or a river. When the flowing water comes to some stones in its path, it doesn’t struggle to remove them, or fight against them, or destroy them. It doesn’t strive to overcome them. It just goes around them. The water naturally responds to what’s there with what might be called ‘effortless action.’

In the end, the water’s gentle and persistent approach in taking the ‘path of least resistance’ causes the stones to become worn smooth or even to disappear completely. It takes time and it does not involve a great expenditure of energy.

Be observant. This is the cornerstone of a life without struggle. We need to see which way the wind is blowing so that we don’t try to sail against it.

Accept things as they are. Things can change (and they always do, given time), but things can rarely be changed in a lasting way by force, and many things cannot be changed at all. You cannot, for example, change another person – you cannot make somebody else do or be as you wish. People spend their lives trying to do this – they ruin their relationships by struggling against other people and trying to mold them. It cannot be done, and this is true of all kinds of things. Might as well try to hold back the tide.

If in doubt, do nothing, say nothing. We often agonize about the right thing to do or say in various situations. But it is very often the case that no action is the best action. We also struggle to find the right thing to say – the right way to express ourselves to someone when we have a problem or when some difficult situation arises. But sometimes, anything we say is the wrong thing and it is better to remain silent.

Trust that things will work out. Things have a natural tendency to work perfectly well on their own, without any interference from us. Indeed, such interference can often ruin things. You don’t make grass grow by pulling it, as the saying goes.

It might seem counterintuitive, but when we relax, accept things as they are and allow things to take their course, life tends to work. To struggle is to be a rat in a wheel – expending a great deal of energy to get nowhere. There is a better way – and it is nature’s way.