The direct route (“as the crow flys”) to achieving your goals includes support from a team of peers and the help of a coach – even when you know what you need to do.
This morning I was in my lounge room and in my gym class (at the same time via Zoom since we are in COVID ‘lockdown’). I balanced for 14 seconds in the crow pose. I was quietly thrilled! I had achieved another milestone on the path to my goal of balancing for 30 seconds. Twelve weeks ago, I couldn’t even get my feet off the ground. Ten weeks ago, after two weeks of frustrating practice, I got my feet off the ground only to fall on my face.
My coach still seemed sure that my experience was perfectly normal and that I could develop the physical ability with persistence. Seven weeks ago I had reached 5 seconds. I was progressing. I started to accept reaching my goal was a possibility, even if I still had a lot of work to do to make the possibility a reality. I have now progressed to a 14-second balance and I’m sure that a 30-second crow is going to happen.
When I turned 60 last year, it struck me I have lived longer than I am going to live and that the quality of the rest of my life would largely be determined by the physical condition of my body, and the quality of my personal and professional relationships. It was important I addressed the former. I joined a strength and flexibility class at a local “movement studio” and soon found myself in a handstand class. I had not been looking for a handstand class!
I am now working at level-one of a five-level process that could take me from press-coffee maker to press-handstands in 24 months. Hence the crow pose. This pose develops the muscles in my hands and arms and the associated neural changes I require to balance on my hands. With practice, the support of fellow learners, and the guidance of my coach I am developing the skills that will eventually enable me to do a handstand.
What has practising crow pose got to do with leadership, management or building your business?
We become what we practise and we are always practising something. Practising is an inescapable part of living. When at work, when with our families and when moving our bodies we are practising. We can choose what we practise and what skills we develop but not whether we practise. Until twelve weeks ago in the domain of movement, I had been practising walking occasionally, cycling occasionally and frantically doing squats for the two weeks preceding the ski season. The results I had been generating were a very slow diminution of my muscle mass, strength and agility combined with a slow increase in the risk of injury.
Whatever you did for the last 12 weeks is what you practised. What would it serve you to practise over the next month, quarter and year? Asked another way, what do you now need to be doing recurrently to experience meaning, fulfillment and success in your life?
Leadership and management are like handstands in that they are performance arts. One can know a lot about the theory but there is no way to develop competence without action and reflection. Knowing how to do a handstand is just not enough to be able to do one. One must practise and embody the skill. It is the same with leadership, management and business development.
Practising leadership and management may mean having the awkward conversations that you tend to put off. It may mean making requests where you have previously just complained. It may mean resolving difficulties in your working relationships. It may mean addressing broken promises about the timeliness and quality of work (whether that be your promises to others or others’ promises to you). It might be about making decisions and taking a stand for the quality of work and the types of behaviors that are acceptable in your workplace. In the broader world, it may be about reflecting deeply on the state of society and taking a stand for the dignity of lives and the kind of society you want to live in.
What important activities do you need to do, that you are not doing, to take care of what you care about?
What difference would it make to your future in twelve months’ time if you started doing them?
It’s easy to put important things off when you do not have a group of peers who support you and some sort of promise to someone else that you will take action.
Joining a movement class helped me to get into action learning to be stronger and more agile and has resulted in the added benefit of my experiencing more vitality and energy at work and at home. I have a group of fellow practitioners and a coach who celebrate my progress and offer me feedback. They have a perspective on my performance that I cannot access alone and I value their assessments of what I could do to improve my form. With the support of this group, I am sticking to my practice even though I often feel uncomfortable and uncoordinated.
I am inspired by my own progress, I am inspired by other’s progress and I see that my progress inspires others.
Who could support you to get started or restarted on what’s now most important? Who could support you to keep going when it is uncomfortable and celebrate the progress you do make?
Finding these people will accelerate your learning and the results you produce.
The quality of your life and your contribution to our world depend on it.