Physician, heal thyself
I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself, professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable task of being my coach.
Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task. I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing the sensations provoked by the experience.
Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.
“Simple is Good”
The task I selected was brushing my teeth. Perhaps the most obvious and mindless of daily routines. A typical toothbrushing might find me winning the lottery, solving work’s CRM issues, delivering a killer pitch, designing a garden shed or accepting several Oscars. What I almost certainly won’t be thinking about is my teeth. The pace I move at prevents me from being in the very thing I’m doing.
So I decided to be with my teeth. And it was amazing. I noticed the physical sensation of brushing my teeth in a completely different way. Things slowed down, but also sped up as the task itself became the object of my attention. I loved it.
Then life happened again and I forgot to notice things.
A Subtle Shift
But when I got back to work earlier this month something had changed. Through this tiny and apparently inconsequential exercise I have found that I am less inclined to lose myself in the maelstrom of work. For sure it’s only mid-January but things are already busy and I am making the conscious choice not to get caught by it. It’s even been commented on by my boss.
My work helps people to cope with many of the issues that impact their performance at work and I have many weapons at my disposal to help them. Mindfulness, or at least a structured approach to it, is not in my toolkit. I’m not likely to adopt it just yet but the change it has wrought in me, in an incredibly short period of time, has been profound.
With the world such an uncertain place at the moment and change upon us from every angle, being able to stop, take stock and just notice what is going on in and around you is a rare opportunity for certainty. As my wise coach says, “mindfulness is noticing the extraordinary in the everyday”.
Change happens. And that can be difficult to deal with but as a result of brushing my teeth, how I respond to change is changing too. My organisation and what I do deals with change all the time. The more I can understand my own response to it, and have a greater set of tools to engage with it, the more I can help other people with the transitions in their lives too.