I have a long history of getting in over my head. Starting my own business at 23. Writing promo material for events, filling them, and THEN figuring out what to actually present. Always skiing with guys, so I had no chance to indulge my vertical fears; I just had to hurl myself over the edge and banzai if necessary. One could say that this reckless, audacious approach has been one of the secrets to my success. And one would be right, in a way.
Problem is, this habit of building capacity by putting myself out there in situations beyond my capacity has also exhausted me. When we were remodeling our house and I lost my yoga space, I didn’t realize that would be devastating to my well-being until that devastation took place. After my son was born, I underestimated the challenges of being a working mother, holding my mind in two places at once while my body focused on making food for Cooper. My inner critic (I call him Morty) says my career has been a series of fits and starts. “You have no staying power!” he berates me. In fact, I’ve had to have extraordinary tenacity and resilience, mostly because I wear myself out doing things beyond my capacity.
So it was very inspiring this morning when Rainey, my yoga teacher, talked about the paradox of building capacity in our yoga practice. We pull in, with our muscles, at the same time as we’re reaching out. We create a container (for instance, pulling our arm bones back into their sockets with our shoulder muscles) that allows for a strong and sustainable expansion (in this case, extending our arms in front of us and above our heads). From a more contained place, we have more capacity than if we just hurled ourselves out in the direction we want to go. I had a visceral, inspiring sense of what this means, both on my yoga mat and in my life. My clients build careers the same way I did, too: they dive in over their heads and figure out how to swim.
So more power to us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep going for it. What I am saying is that we can cut some of the high costs of our initiative by investing in our capacity in less violent, less dramatic ways. Often, people are one way or the other. “Ready, Fire! Aim???” has been my mantra. Others might be more “Ready, Aim….. Ready, Aim… Ready?” and go-getters like me are terrified our successes would evaporate if we over-planned. Instead, let us keep reaching out, but from a grounded place. Let us contain enough energy to make our efforts sustainable, even as we audaciously reach for the next thing that others think is impossible. That’s the recipe for sustainability.
In practical terms, here’s what that looks like for me: Making sure I have time and bandwidth to cook dinners. Dinner is the canary in my coal mine: it goes down the tubes when I’m moving so fast I’m ungrounded. For sure, it also means getting in 2 yoga classes, a Nia class, and 1-2 Pilates sessions each week. It means enough sleep. It means morning pages (a la Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way). And it means mostly-daily touch-base with Sara. When I do those things, it’s like engaging my arm into its base, so it can reach for the sky … and keep reaching and reaching with no need for fits and starts.