The leading question for most of my workshop participants for a variety workplace situations is:
How do I overcome ______ (insert: lethargy, inertia, nerves, fear, apprehension, internal blocks…) in order to _______ (insert: improve a relationship, do a great presentation, connect with my boss, move through conflict, feel better about myself, be more effective…)?
It’s a question I believe each of us must ask at some, if not at many points in our life; day. It’s an important question and a usually a sincere – if not desperate – question.
What’s the latest magic bullet?
What’s the newest, powerful snake oil?
All joking aside – a great deal of money has been spent over time to affect the “con” in confidence, in order for a person to have enough trust and assurance to do – well, one thing or another.
And in order to have answers to this prominent question and, candidly, to fund the energy and courage to fight my own personal windmills, I have explored quite a few disciplines.
What I have found works best are approaches that diligently involve us physically. They range from the exasperatingly simple to the more complex that require the development of useful distinctions.
The problem with the exasperatingly simple is that they are so simple, very intelligent, mind dominated folks don’t believe “it” can be that simple and refuse to try them. The simplest of body based techniques is; Take A Breath!
Just a few months ago a work associate bounded into my office, closed the door and loudly complained about another consultant who was out there telling “…high powered executives to TAKE A BREATH! How absurd! They don’t want to hear that B.S. They have real problems!”
Before I responded, I quietly took a breath.
Why would I do that? Because a broad range of studies and experts in science, medicine, psychology, and spirituality have proven that it works. The trick is that you have to do it consciously. You have to feel it. It fuels the brain, quiets the mind, and centers you in your body. It brings you present. We are all more effective when we are present.
A second simple body based technique is to move your body or hold your body in a way that you would if you felt the way you want to feel. Whew! – I mean if you want to feel happy, smile. If you’re tense – relax – feel your shoulders drop, your breath deepen. If you want to feel centered and poised, stand in a way that appears centered and poised, no doubt you will feel that way. If you need courage – sit, stand, move – the way you imagine someone with courage does…Through “postural echo” (what you do with your body tells you how to feel) you will feel courage.
Tom Crum is an expert at teaching people to handle conflict effectively. In his workshops he has participants try Aikido moves to discover strength, balance, and a sense of blending in their bodies. This work sets the ground for finding the same qualities mentally and verbally.
Richard Strozzi starts with the Aikido metaphor, but takes the physical approach further by teaching distinctions about how we physically, psychologically produce “armoring” that visually defines us – people see and react to this stuff. The “armoring” – habitual body tension – inhibits our effectiveness on many levels. Learning to feel, and consistently relax armoring allows for a deep change of personal character. In tandem the perceptions others form about us shift dramatically.
I experienced a strong shift in the initial perception workshop participants had of me, by learning to lower the center of my stance and soften my eyes. The initial perception was of a somewhat cool command, the change evidenced warmer leadership. Strozzi’s work also includes distinctions about movement. Bodywork coaching is recommended.
Applied Kineseology and Energy Psychology (Fred Gallo) appear to be slightly more esoteric approaches. Through Applied Kineseology (muscle testing) it is very easy to show how thought affects the body. A negative thought weakens muscles. A positive thought strengthens them. Change can also be demonstrated in response to a remembered feeling or a representative visualization. We feel the energy shift in our body and with the new feeling behavior also changes. Energy psychology uses Applied Kineseology and acupressure points to identify energy leaks. Various forms of interaction with acupressure points can demonstrate a change in muscle energy – and subsequently, feeling and behavior.
Ultimately I have found that each and all of these techniques work. The essential ingredient is “eternal vigilance” (Fred Gallo). We have to be aware of our bodies, and our energy in order to interact with them to create a change. The changes are instantaneous – but the vigilance is unending. Once you notice a physical distinction, you just have to care enough to shift it in some constructive way. As soon as you make the incremental shift real change has begun. Tibetan Buddhists call this mindfulness. They use similar techniques to be warriors of compassion.