Over the summer, I had the good fortune to take a tennis class to learn new things about a game I love. I went into it all ready to show the instructor my wicked ground strokes! I clenched down, gripped the racket and literally tried to kill the ball. After about 75% of my shots went into the net or way outside the lines, I got frustrated. What the hell was going on? During a break I asked the instructor what she thought the problem was. She immediately told me that I was working way too hard. My grip was too tight and I was losing all my power with my supposedly intense stroke.
SHE THEN GAVE ME A TIP THAT I AM TAKING INTO EVERY PART OF MY LIFE:
"The looser you stay, the more power you will have."
WHAT? I've always thought that staying loose meant that you weren't taking things seriously. The more clenched, busy, and proactive I could be, the better. The more I focused on meeting others' needs, the more I would be liked.
The delusional belief behind all of these thoughts went something like this.... the harder I work, the more worthy I am. I must push and overextend to be good enough.
And this belief has brought me success...I did well in school, built a successful career, and have a wonderful family and friends. But as I woke up to this toxic message, I realized that every time I overextended in dance, I got hurt. When I tried too hard to connect with people, they backed away. When I put others' needs first, I often misread what they actually wanted, and almost always ended up abandoning myself.
This way of living was tiring, leaving me achy and burnt out! And the worst part is that it was blocking the support that wanted to come into my life.
So, since that fateful day on the tennis court, I've been experimenting with my coach's principle of working less to have more power. It is so subtle, but when I practice it one small choice at a time, I find many opportunities every day to loosen my grip on life and experience flow. The benefits are instant and available to all of us.
What working LOOSE looks like:
- Wait. I try not to act until there is a genuine and actual reason to do something. When I feel an idea emerge, I write it down and it helps me determine whether it's driven by fear or urgency, or if it truly comes from my heart. When I have clarity, I can prioritize.
- Release. When I do not know the solution to a problem, I release it for a while instead of ruminating and forcing an answer prematurely. Asking for help from my higher self and then turning over the problem brings enormous freedom.
- Accept support. I say yes to help and embrace compliments when I receive them. A tight grip is often critical and unforgiving. Accepting kindness from others helps us to be more loving with ourselves.
- Stay in the moment. When I'm working with a client or a group, I work hard to stay open and present instead of always thinking about the next topic, or how I could or should respond.
- Rest. I take breaks and let myself relax when the time is right instead of filling every second with something practical.
- Honor commitments. I start on time, end on time, and honor my boundaries. These simple commitments are within my power, and they give me something I can always feel proud of.
- Detach from outcomes. Before I offer help, I consider whether the person really wants help, or if I am offering it because it makes me feel better -- and more in control -- to fix things. Offering support and then letting go is a liberating way to truly help others.
Working LOOSE does not look like:
- Planning for people when they do not need my help.
- Overextending and doing extra to look good or seem more worthy.
- Jumping into action too quickly for the short-term satisfaction of feeling productive.
- Judging others for their decisions when they differ from mine and forgetting that everyone is on their own path!
- Staying busy when others around me are chilling and enjoying themselves.
My questions for you are:
- Where can YOU loosen your grip on life a bit?
- Where can you harness your energy and resist the temptation to overextend?
- Where in your day do you silently accept more responsibility or work than is really necessary?
- How many relaxing little breaks can you build into your day?
- Where can you say "yes" to more help and accept compliments?
Johanna Beyer is the founder and principal of On Your Path Consulting. Since 2002 she has been working one on one with people who feel that they are at a crossroads in life. She specializes in supporting individuals who feel unfulfilled with their current careers and are ready to create their next stage of work that is challenging and purposeful.
Her main philosophy with coaching rests in the belief that everyone has the answers and clarity inside. However, when people are trying to make big change on their own, fear can often block that inner wisdom. She considers herself a guide with expertise in helping people to connect with their inner clarity and will go to battle with her clients to fight off the inner critic and create accountability to make their vision into a reality.