Last month I volunteered with Fast & Female at a Girls in Sport event. During the day we had a chance to participate in an activity and somehow – despite my internal grumblings – I ended up in the yoga session. Let me set the record straight — I kind of hate yoga. Yes, yes, I know. I live in the most “yogi” filled city, province, whatever. Hot yoga. Bikram’s yoga. Hatha. Power. Blah, blah, blah I hate ’em all. For real!
So, here I was as a volunteer somehow roped into a yoga session with a bunch of what appeared to be yogis. I was so out of place. The session began and naturally I struggled like a turtle on it’s poor, shelled back. But I powered on because really, who volunteers and then has a tantrum? Not this girl. Now let me just say this: the session was not bad at all despite my struggles, huffing, and puffing. Now we’re nearly through it all and we venture to begin hand stands. WHAT?! My inner kick-boxing, weight-lifting, Zumba-rrific gal inside me freaked. What if I fell? Would they all laugh? Would I get hurt? Could I even do this? And then, my sister in law whom I love dearly and who joined me as a volunteer — WAS ON HER HANDS IN A HANDSTAND. Eff.
I tried. Well kind of. I kicked my heels up with a minimal amount of ambition and didn’t achieve much. Watching the others made me jealous; watching their heels kick up gracefully and seeing their bodies relaxed against the wall like poetry. And I standing straight, with nothing to do.
The instructor approached me then and asked me a bit about “my practice.”- Ha! I told her of my dislike and how I prefer high cardio like kickboxing to Yoga and she looked at me and said, “I could see how much you were struggling with it. Your wrists are so weak.” At this, I leapt at the chance to agree wholeheartedly about how weak (and delicately feminine) my wrists are (I’m so not built for this.) She responded simply by saying, “doing Yoga would strengthen your wrists.” Ouch! She got me, dead on.
This polite and spot-on exchange gave me an Oprah style “ah-ha” moment that’s had a ripple effect in my life. Maybe I wouldn‘t hate yoga so much if it wasn’t so difficult for me. Wait a minute…. Maybe I don’t hate yoga.
Fast forward and I’m at my gym, at the tail end of a kickboxing class and the instructor is making us do pushups. I’m skipping sets. I’m resting. I’m everything short of sending a Tweet when I hear Ms. Yoga instructor in my head pointing out that maybe if I were better at push ups, I wouldn’t hate them. Hrmph. She might be onto something. I went home that night and I had sacred time. Time free of machines, devices, and anything with an on button except for my mind and I explored what I learned at yoga and my experience at the gym tonight. Eureka! I don’t hate yoga. I don’t hate pushups. I actually just suck at them because of my weak wrists. Boom!
It reminds me of when I was a child and my mother would ask me if I wanted to do something – such as join Girl Guides or play the piano. I would say that I didn’t like that when really I was afraid of it. Afraid of failing. This experience and my experience as a child makes me wonder if there is anything such as dislike — do we ever really dislike someone or something or is it just that we need more information? Needing more information is a classic sales technique that teaches salespeople that “no” just means that they need more information.
This experience also bled into my work life when my boss pointed out one day that I basically avoid one pillar of my work function and how he knows it’s because it’s not my favourite part of HR. We do these things, often subconsciously, where we avoid, file for later, and procrastinate the shit out of something when really it’s about needing more information, it’s about understanding ourselves, the task, the subject — understanding better. I linked his feedback immediately to my skipping of pushups and threw a post-it on my computer monitor that read: “Don’t skip your pushups.”
You see — I never hated yoga, pushups, or my work function. There was a blockage there that I didn’t explore, understand, or challenge. I find the trouble to be that few of us challenge the why behind our emotions and thoughts. We allow ourselves to burrow in our emotions and we protect them from challenges. It’s like saying “Well I’m sorry, this is how I feel.” No one can trump “this is how I feel!”
Exploring how we feel – at this very moment – will help us understand why we’re blocking experiences, procrastinating, or being plain old being stupid. Here’s some of my steps to self discovery and emotional intelligence:
- How am I feeling right now? Right this second!
- Why don’t I like/want to do/ ___? Ask why repeatedly.
- Is there anything I’m not doing right now that could change my outcome?
Beyond doing a pulse check on your mood, check for other signals of distress:
- Your Words: Monitor yourself for shortness in communication. I like to call it huffing and puffing. When you notice it, ask yourself why you are feeling this why. Challenge yourself to uncover the reason and then make a decision to turn around. Take a deep breathe through your mouth and push it out ’till there’s no more. Then do it again.
- Your Body: Take stock of your bod. Are your shoulders up at your ears? Does your face feel heavy? Jaw tight? Are you frowning? Practice the smile technique. Super cliche and it works. I force myself to smile for thirty seconds and every time I feel more relaxed thereafter. Try it
Being in a mood and allowing irrational emotions go unchallenged is like any conflict you encounter. The more you explore your emotions the more experiences you have and thus your interpersonal skills will blossom.
So before you go and say, “nah, I don’t like Zumba.” Ask yourself WHY.
“Change your mind. Change your life.”