I read a great blog post from Kristian Bright recently about the myriad unhealthy ways we drive ourselves to a state of total exhaustion – to both physical and mental burnout.
He gives the analogy of being a runner, and being tired, keeping going anyway and picking up injuries easily, and draws the comparison between the way we drive ourselves professionally in a similar manner, where we pick up different kinds of ‘injuries’ along the way, and often don’t know where to stop. We switch to beast mode until something breaks.
This can be true across all areas of our lives. Nowhere is off limits.
I’ve always been someone with a high degree of positive momentum about me (some might call it type A haha). Whatever my current fixation is, I’ve gone at it full pelt. If I am into something, I am all in (people, jobs, hobbies, even trainers – I once had a ridiculous number of pairs). Something that’s been much harder for me to learn, is the art of being truly gentle.
One of the biggest hurdles to my gentleness, was my own perception of it. For the longest time, that perception was abundantly negative. I associated gentleness with weakness, and that was the opposite of what I strived to be with my ‘do, deliver, achieve’ mentality.
Such was my work ethic and level of determination (and commitment to being all in), that I would actually negatively (and largely silently) judge other people for taking time out, or perhaps choosing not to do something and skip it to rest. So giddy was my obsession with ‘living life to the full’, that I completely missed what ‘living life to the full’ should actually mean. That is to live all of it; light and dark, motion and stillness.
Shame on me.
The brilliant thing about life (and adulting in general) is that you get to change your mind and disagree with your former self all the time.
Just because a way of thinking was your blueprint at one time, there’s absolutely no reason for it to remain so. You can choose better thoughts (and whilst you are at it, ideally forgive yourself for whatever the previous thought process was).
The conversation that you have with yourself and the way you see the world should always remain fluid. I don’t have to agree with me five years ago, heck I don’t even need to agree with me yesterday, or even five minutes ago. I can simply realise that there is a better way and choose a different approach.
With gentleness, that’s exactly what I have started to do.
A full experience of life, is actually making a commitment to experience all facets of life in total connection. For me that meant embracing and living in my yin energy (the coolness, the stillness) as well as my yang (the fire, the drive). It’s all about balance.
Your body is your marker of truth. If you allow yourself space to listen, your body will tell you whether each and every decision is the right one. Whether you are pushing yourself too hard, and what the best thing to do at this time might be. The trouble is, for a lot of us, we have forgotten how to listen. We smother the dialogue that our body is having with us through an array of different distractions. I’ve written about this before here.
The biggest and most important step for me here has been creating the platform where I am able to listen. Something that’s supported by making life choices that truly support me. Meditation is a huge part of that.
Now I can feel when I am moving too fast, as well as when I am moving too slowly; which means I am left with the choice of whether to slow down, or whether to speed up.
Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t. But I am learning.
None of this means that my drive to ‘do, deliver and achieve’ has gone away, it just means that I am able to make choices that honour where I actually am. It means I am becoming much better at saying no, especially (and most importantly) to me.
I am now able to find my balance. When I choose to create the space to listen.
How can we help to celebrate a culture of gentleness so that we don’t need to wait for something to break to take things a little easier? Do we really have to beast ourselves before we learn a better way?
What are the ways that we can encourage a culture of gentleness, both inside our organisations and into the world beyond? Can we make gentleness a thing that is applauded rather than scoffed at?
At the very least, for those of us who have started to realise the power of this magnificent tool, I feel like our role is to share that with the world around us, and let our gentleness for ourselves awaken the gentleness in others.
Each choice we make sends a ripple around us that we cannot see, whether good or bad.
When I move gently, it might encourage the person behind me to do the same. When someone I know says no to an event, it might make me do the same (if that is what truly serves me at that time). When I close the door gently, the imprint of gentleness that I leave will greet the next person that opens the door, and that person could well be me.
When I am gentle with myself, I am centred and grounded and perfectly equipped to deal with whatever the world might throw at me. So after all that fighting and judging, it turns out gentleness is actually my new superpower.