Flexibility and Control

My Pilates instructor shared an interesting video with me after attending the recent Atlanta MANIA fitness tradeshow. The video featured Chuck Wolf, M.S., an exercise physiologist who developed an interesting fitness training modality called “Flexibility Highways,” who expanded on the basic point that: “Mobilizing muscles and joints without incorporating a stabilizing movement pattern can actually increase the client’s risk of injury.” Take a moment to reread the last sentence. It’s an important point!

Increasing flexibility without increasing control is risky business.

This principle works well in this setting, but does it hold true in other phases of life? I believe so. Yesterday we considered what it takes to “step it up a notch” in your personal expression. I have found that stepping up my game requires that I first relax more deeply in relation to some point around which I have held unnecessary tension. That relaxation – physically, mentally or emotionally – allows the life force to course more freely through body, mind and heart, providing a natural source of strength and inspiration to overcome previous limitations.

New capability without new control is dangerous.

Think of this in relation to children who are allowed to go on the internet for the first time. At first the control must be provided externally, by a parent or limited access restrictions on the search engine, but it makes sense to ease those external controls over time as the internal control builds in the maturing child. If you were to give a child free access to the internet without such controls, the results could be disastrous.

Whenever you mobilize new capability, pay attention to the corresponding stabilizing movement. There will always be one.

In business terms, this would relate to the corresponding strengthening of infrastructure that must accompany a growth in sales. Many wonderful companies with excellent products or services go out of business because of a failure on this point. Their growth outpaces their infrastructure and the company implodes or the infrastructural development outpaces the growth and the company starves to death. Either is an ugly and inglorious ending. Both are generally avoidable if care is taken to add a dash of stabilization whenever a pinch of expansion is experienced.

Principles such as these abound in life and the nice thing is that one principle properly understood can be applied in millions of different ways. What you learn, experience and know in one area of your life can be tremendously useful in other areas of your life when you learn to connect the dots. It’s not that hard, really.

Go ahead, give it a try!

Purpose, Vision and Change

“Change is inevitable – except from the vending machine.” ~ Robert C. Gallagher

Of all of the assumptions that stop people from thinking clearly and from moving forward, there is one that stands as a giant amongst grasshoppers. I am careful to point it out as knowledge of this basic life principle is a double-edged sword. Used correctly, this principle is the basis of rapid and graceful forward movement; used incorrectly it becomes the perfect rationalization for not moving forward at all.

The principle of which I speak is related to change. As we’ve discussed previously, change is inevitable. The bits and pieces that make up matter are constantly in flux. Your body, for instance, is constantly exchanging atoms with your surrounding environment. Millions are incorporated into your body and millions are released into the air through your breath, your dead skin cells, your hair follicles, etc., every day.

Likewise, circumstances are constantly in flux. Every decision made by every human being every second adds a new variable into the mix, and like snowflakes, no two moments are ever alike. Political leaders come and go. Nations come and go. Even great civilizations come and go given enough time.

Now here’s where most people get tripped up. You can have a constant, or perhaps better put, eternal vision for the purpose of your life, even though everything else around you changes with dizzying regularity. Let’s say that your vision for your life is to be a blessing, for instance. That vision can stay in tact, no matter what else changes around you.

When your sense of purpose is clear, you have far less “needy” attachment to the things and people around you on the one hand, and a far greater sense of the value of the things and people around you on the other. Far too many people fall prey to the tendency to be identified with the forms of their lives, their material possessions, their relationships, the money they have in the bank, their friendships, etc. and they end up using the phrase “I have…” to answer the question “I am…”

Such a mistake is costly and frequently painful, for as we mentioned, the world around you is constantly in flux in ways that are far beyond your control. The sooner that you learn that you cannot control everything in your world the more heartaches you save yourself in the long run.

Now I mentioned that this knowledge is a double-edged sword and I am sure that you can imagine why. If you know that everything changes it is very easy to fall into the mindset that says “Well, then, it doesn’t really matter what I do then. It all changes and I have no control.” This laissez-faire approach has consumed many people throughout history and it unfortunately constrains to desolation and bitterness.

What can be done with this understanding? Well, first of all, embracing this principle allows your heart to come to rest. You recognize that things change, that you can have an effect while they are in your proximity, that you can appreciate what you have while you have it and that you can maintain your vision and sense of purpose no matter what your circumstances look like at any given point in time.

If your sense of self, your clarity of vision and purpose is driven by the world around you, you will be blown and tossed like a ship in a storm. Conversely, if you come to the point where you can clearly articulate your vision for your life’s purpose, you can rejoice in the fact that you have found the fountain of stability that has been available to you all the way along.

Where there is clarity of purpose, you will flourish. Your fortunes may come and go, your friends and family may oscillate near and far, but you will thrive and prosper in the midst of a constantly changing world.