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On 17 October we will welcome Edward Slingerland to the TEDxMaastricht stage, a Professor of Asian Studies, as well as adjunct in the departments of Psychology and Philosophy, at the University of British Columbia.

He holds degrees in sinology and religious studies, and is the author of, most recently, ‘Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science and the Power of Spontaneity” (2014).

“Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting?
Or be charming and relaxed on a first date?
What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes?”

In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire.

We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort. Can prof. dr. Slingerland change your perspective to stop trying?

“Recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, such as happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. The early Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way of being in the world, which they called wu-wei (ooo-way). They believed it was the source of all success in life, and they developed various strategies for achieving it and hanging on to it.”

How, though, can you try, not to try? Dr. Slingerland has combined his studies of early Chinese philosophy with cutting-edge research from modern cognitive science, evolutionary studies, and social psychology to explore why this paradox is real, why is exists, and how finding a way around it is the key to both social cooperation and personal success.