If you consider yourself too laid back this article is not for you. If you never try too hard and don’t have any perfectionist tendencies, ditto. Please feel free to skip this month’s contribution. Look back through the blog archive, or wait for next month – I’m sure you’ll find plenty of relevant and valuable material.
This article is for the rest of us, who do sometimes find ourselves trying too hard.
I was talking to you in November about trying and making the argument that there isn’t any need to try.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we won’t try. For most of us, trying is baked in to how we approach situations in life, and especially challenges.
To be clear, when I speak about, not trying, I’m not talking about whether we put in any effort or not. In order to achieve things in life, a degree of application and expenditure of energy is usually required.
It’s about whether we are acting with the most possible relaxation and economy, or whether we are adding an extra layer of “efforting” on top of that. It’s that extra layer which is often counter-productive, because it expends extra energy and potentially makes us tight and somewhat brittle in the way we respond.
In looking at this, one interesting thing to experiment with, is noticing how this extra efforting is showing up in our bodies, and making adjustments accordingly.
One of the principles of embodied leadership is that any way that we wish to be in the world has got a body shape associated with it. The more we hold that body shape, the more that way we will feel. If we hold a confident body shape, it will actually make us feel more confident and others will experience us as more confident. Similarly if we hold a welcoming body shape, we will feel more welcoming to the outside world and others will also experience us that way.
Similarly, any way that we don’t wish to be in the world will have a body shape associated with it – be it the slumped shoulders of a lack of confidence, the crossed, arms of suspiciousness or the turning away of fear.
So all the ways of being in the world have a body shape associated with them. By noticing this in ourselves, we can get what’s going on with us, and also make significant adjustments to how we feel and operate.
So, as we start the year, it may be fun for many of us to experiment with being a little bit more laid-back, and using our bodies to explore this.
When we are walking along, we can deliberately take notice of whether we are leaning in and putting in additional effort. When we are stood talking to people we can notice whether we are more in our heels or more in our toes.
In these situations, we can then ask ourselves the question – if I were to allow my posture to be laid-back in this moment, what would that look like? And then adjust accordingly.
Resistance to being laid back
When I have been experimenting with this recently I have noticed two sorts of resistance to making these sorts of changes.
The first sort of resistance is a sense that this feels unfamiliar – “This isn’t me!”. Which at some level is true. It’s not who we are used to being. It’s not how we are used to being in the world. So, to this part of ourselves we can simply respond – “Yes, that’s true – This isn’t how we usually do things, we’re just experimenting here to see what this is like”.
The second sort of resistance is more fundamental. Very often we can use projects, goals, plans and objectives as a way to distract ourselves from feelings happening inside us that we don’t want to feel. It’s not that these projects or goals don’t need to be achieved, it’s simply that our minds can co-opt them as a distraction strategy.
In my experience there are often plenty of feelings happening inside me that I don’t want to feel in any given moment. Some of these are feelings about stuff happening right now in my life. More often they are legacy feelings, stuff left over from earlier times in my life that didn’t get felt at the time, and are coming back to be felt now. Some people will experience these feelings as free floating anxiety, sadness or even anger or annoyance. My sense from working with lots of clients is that these sort of background uncomfortable feelings are incredibly common.
The only way we can relate with this second sort of resistance is by meeting it head on. Noticing that we are using whatever we are doing, be it physical or mental as a way of not feeling. Saying to that part of us that doesn’t want to feel – “Yes, we can do that. We can continue bracing ourselves or distracting ourselves. Or just for this moment we can let go of that and feel a little bit of the stuff we’ve been running away from feeling”. And then for that moment letting go of the trying in our heads or in our bodies and feeling some of those feelings at the same time.
This is not something that we have to do all the time. It isn’t something that we have to do forever. This is something that we can simply choose to do now, just for this moment.
There is a famous Chinese proverb attributed to Lao Tzu – “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. Changing habits doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one moment at a time. Through noticing with kindness what we are doing, and just in this moment choosing to do something else. Simply because we have a sense that what we have been doing isn’t serving us.
Then we can simply notice what happens. Notice how it feels to allow ourselves to be a little more laid back. To relax a little more, feel a little more and simply be a little more. A bit less doing, a little more being. Inviting a little more space into our lives.
I wish more of that space for all of us in this coming year.
If you’d like to explore any of the issues contained in this article in one to one coaching, I’d be delighted to do that with you over Zoom or MS Teams. Alternatively feel free to check out one of our authentic public speaking courses in London, where we touch on these issues too.