As I was walking to my yoga class this morning, I was thinking about a sales team we’re working with. I was starting to see that their very commitment to going for it - to rigor, to speed, to action – although they think of as their greatest strength, are the very things standing in the way of their getting to the next place they want to go. They want to reach a place of more teamwork, of eliminating rework, of doing the very smartest things. They want to communicate and connect enough to leverage the strength of every individual and every perspective on the team. I want that for them, too. But they’re moving so fast… how will it happen?
These things were on my mind as I arrived at yoga. I tried to set my thoughts aside to focus on my practice. My teacher Elizabeth Rainey opened the class by sharing with us that she recently spent three days with John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, at the annual Advanced Intensive. Rainey cherishes this intensive because she is able to push her boundaries and go to new places in her practice each time. But this time, to her dismay, she had a terrible cold. “As a type-A person, that was tough. I LIKE to push myself, but I had to relax into my practice instead. What surprised me was that the relaxation forced by my illness actually allowed me to go deeper in my practice. I had MORE capability, not less.”
I thought about the parallel between what Rainey shared about her own softening because of her cold and my wish for my clients that there was some force that would support them to drop into the other half of their power. I know I do the same thing, and I’ll bet you do, too: we over-rely on that aggressive side of ourselves. We’ve actually come to equate the words strength and strong with driving, pushing, and efforting. We so often go rigid in order to be stronger. We push in order to go faster. But those are only some of our options. And once we’ve developed a lot of strength and speed through those means, additional gains have to come from some other source. Sometimes going softer makes us stronger. Sometimes letting go is what helps us move faster.
I’m not advocating a change in our intentions. Moving the dial forward, reaching our sales goals, nailing our to-dos, attaining the exotic yoga pose: good goals. Let’s keep ‘em.
What I’m observing is that for those of us who are good – either advanced yoginis like Rainey or advanced make-it-happen salespeople like my clients – if we’re good at hardening, at strengthening, at activating and moving – it may well be that our next edge, our next edge of potential may be attained by activating the very opposite of what we’ve been thinking of as our greatest strength.