The Tao of Tech: How to cope with stress as a tech worker?

I am experiencing a challenging period as we approach the end of the quarter.

During these times, I find solace in eastern philosophy to stay zen and embrace the flow.

In Singapore, many people tend to have a more transactional relationship with religion, often involving offerings in exchange for favours.

Some also inherit their family religion and follow the practices, even if they do not believe in it very much.

To me, religion goes beyond transaction and tradition. I focus a a lot on the values that guide my life and romantic relationships.

They help me navigate life with a clearer mind and a more resilient spirit.

Here are five teachings anyone can apply regardless of faith:

1. Accept reality as it is

A lot of suffering in this world comes from not accepting situations.

In Taoism, we learn about living in harmony with nature. This means understanding and respecting the natural order of things.

There is duality in everything - yin and yang:

  • I want to be successful at work, have great health and deep meaningful relationships. This means I have to be willing to lead a different lifestyle and work harder than many of my peers.

  • I want to benefit from the high growth potential in the tech sector. This means I also need to be completely okay with tons of job insecurity. If I do not accept this, I should join another sector

By accepting circumstances, it does not mean being passive. It means being like water - adaptable to the circumstances we have. Water can carve it’s way through stone and when trapped, water makes a new path.

For example, selling a cost optimisation software during tech winter, joining an AI company during this boom and maximizing my layoff period to raise funds for charity.

2. Remember: Everything is impermanent

The Tao Te Ching highlights the ever-changing nature of reality. Accepting this impermanence can help us avoid clinging to desires or resisting inevitable change.

This awareness helps me cherish the good times without fearing their end.

In my romantic relationships, I start with the understanding that the connection is impermanent.

This helps me fully appreciate the present joy while acknowledging that one day we might be apart, either through a breakup or one person dying first.

When life seems to fall apart, it’s crucial to remember that everything changes. Just as night turns into day, bad fortune can turn into good fortune, and curses can become blessings.

So, could it be that life doesn’t fall apart, but rather... it falls into place?

Here’s one of my favourite parables that illustrates this:

3. Practice daily gratitude

Throughout human evolution, quickly identifying and responding to threats was crucial for survival.

This led to a negative bias in many of us, where our brains prioritize negative information over positive.

While this trait kept our ancestors vigilant, it’s less useful today.

The good news? You can rewire your brain to focus on positive aspects of life. One practice I use is thinking of three things I am grateful for each morning.

For example, I am grateful for my fit and healthy body.

A few months ago, I had a horse riding accident, and landing at the wrong angle could have meant death or paralysis. The fact that I am alive and moving well is something I am deeply grateful for. I reflect on this almost weekly.

Gratitude is a form of mindfulness that allows us to be present with the goodness in our lives. This brings me to my next point.

4. Cultivate mindfulness and introspection

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment. We observe our feelings, thoughts, and surroundings with curiosity and non-judgment.

Here is how you can apply this. For example, on Tuesday, I was upset at work due to a difficult customer.

After work, I went to BFT and shifted my focus from the customer to being fully present at at class. I combined this with gratitude for my strength, mobility, and the opportunity to exercise with a friend.

I try to be mindful in everything. When I eat, I focus solely on enjoying the food. When I'm with others, I avoid using my phone.

Mindfulness is growing in the tech sector. The Salesforce CEO, interested in Buddhism, has implemented "mindfulness zones" in more than half of Salesforce offices, where employees set aside their phones for quiet moments to promote clear thinking and innovation.

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