The 5 Habits of Admirably Zen People

#2: They do less.

Margaret Pan
Jul 19 · 5 min read
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

In today’s world where stress is ever-present, it can be difficult to remain calm and grounded. We’re constantly busy and worried about the future, trying to beat the race against time.

Any delay, difficulty, or annoyance makes us angry, upset, and stressed. That’s how the human brain works. And there’s nothing you can do about it, right? Except there is.

The word “zen” refers to the ability to remain calm and relaxed in the face of difficulties; the power of not worrying about things you cannot change.

Some people have a knack for it. They respond to life’s setbacks with calmness and manage to remain undisturbed. That’s because they have some specific habits and a particular mindset and way of approaching life.


1. They Look at the Bigger Picture

Most of us tend to stress over minor, unimportant things that don’t really matter in the long-term. How many times did you catch yourself stressing over a negative comment someone made about you, a difficulty you encountered in work, or some unprecedented expenses?

I know how that feels like. I’ve caught myself stressing over silly things more times than I can count. Stressing over minor things is a natural human characteristic.

But, there’s a harsh truth about life that some people find it difficult to accept — bad things are gonna happen. Plus, you usually have no control over most of them. That’s why you need to look at the bigger picture.

Think about it. You might have learned a useful lesson by encountering a difficulty. Facing a rejection — or multiple ones — made you stronger. Having to spend more money on something reminds you to manage your personal finances wisely.

So, next time you start stressing over something, ask yourself if this thing will matter to you:

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 5 years from now?

If the answer is no, forget about it. After all, things always work out in the end.


2. They Do Less

No, doing less doesn't mean you have to lead a lazy or boring life. In fact, people who remain zen still work hard, make plans, and set goals. What they don’t do, however, is make an unending list of tasks every day.

That is because, by doing so, you end up rushing from one thing to another, without having a moment to stop and appreciate life for what it’s worth: the simple things.

And yes, I know that landing a promotion, making more money, or receiving more recognition for your work are important things we all struggle to achieve. The thing is, we get so caught up in this strive for productivity and excellence, that we enter an ever-ending cycle of anxiety and depression.

Life is not about racking up a list of accomplishments. Sometimes, we need to make more time for ourselves or use the time we have more meaningfully.

When we do less, we stress less and enjoy life more. And by enjoying life more, we end up working harder and producing better results.


3. They Practice Patience Every Day

You know what they say: Patience is a virtue. Having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration. And you know what? According to this study, waiting for things can actually make us happier in the long run.

As with most things in life, in order to master the art of remaining calm in the face of adversities, you need to practice first. You can’t just wake up one being a zen guru nor you can learn in it one day.

But, how exactly can one practice patience? Well, it’s rather simple. You need to put yourself in situations that require patience. For example:

  • Take the long road home
  • Stand and wait in the long line in the supermarket
  • Read a difficult novel
  • Complete a large jigsaw puzzle
  • Wait for an appointment without checking your phone

Practicing patience in everyday situations can not only help you shield yourself against daily stress but might also help pave the way for a more satisfying and successful future.


4. They Don’t Demand Perfection From Themselves

Look, I get it. We all want to become the best version of ourselves — but demanding perfection is a losing battle. It will not only overwhelm you with stress but also slow any progress you work hard to make.

The truth is, perfectionism is ugly. Holding excessive standards for yourself, becoming obsessed with flawless performance, and engaging in self-punishment.

In order to be your most productive self, you need to let go of the idea of being perfect. Actually, try to erase it from your vocabulary. Perfect doesn’t exist. As Kim Collins once said:

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”


5. They Accept Reality as It Is

Let’s be honest with this one. Sometimes, life sucks. And there’s nothing you can do about it. There are some things you simply cannot change. The more you try to change them, the more you think about how unfair life can be, the more stress you welcome into your life.

People who accept reality — and therefore, life — as it is, are calmer, keep their composure, and in the long run, lead happier lives. Yes, life can be unpredictable. Yes, it can bring you a lot of struggles and difficulties. And yes, there’s no way to stop it from unfolding the way it does.

But, when you learn to actually accept things as they are, you eventually manage to work around life and find the right pathways that can allow you not only to lead a calm, happy life but to thrive.


Life can be extremely unpredictable. There will always be challenges, difficulties, and setbacks. You can either accept that or eternally stress over things you cannot control.

At the end of the day, what matters most is how you react to everything life throws at you. Or, as Charles Bukowski has said, “how well you walk through the fire”.

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Margaret Pan

Written by

Thoughtful writer. Words&cats&books. Trying to make a difference in the world through personal development, psychology, and entrepreneurship.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Margaret Pan

Written by

Thoughtful writer. Words&cats&books. Trying to make a difference in the world through personal development, psychology, and entrepreneurship.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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