Leadership lessons from Confucius: periods of purification

periods of purification

During periods of purification, he wore a plain robe made of coarse linen. During periods of purification, he simplified his diet and did not sit in his usual place when at home.

In today’s age of relentless connectivity, it’s more vital than ever before to take time to unplug from all the noise and shed all the gunk that has accumulated in your body and mind. Even a short hike on the weekend can be enough to put you back in touch with yourself and clear your head. More extended retreats are even more effective in helping you to truly wind down. Rather than asking if you can find time to fit one in your schedule, you should ask yourself how to make it possible. The longer you postpone taking one, the harder it will be to truly recharge yourself.

Fasting or adopting a simpler diet should be an integral part of your retreat – not to mention your normal lifestyle. In addition to helping you keep your weight down, it enables you to build stronger self-discipline and self-control. Combined with regular exercise, it boosts your physical and mental strength and resilience – making you much better equipped to deal with the rigors and challenges of your daily life.


This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.

(1) In ancient China, people carried out periods of abstinence or purification in preparation for important ancestral rituals. Their main objective was to cleanse themselves physically and spiritually by changing their daily routine, avoiding rich or spicy foods such as garlic and ginger, abstaining from sexual relations, bathing, and wearing plain clothes.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan.

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