Where are you trying too hard?

Recently I’ve begun practicing the Japanese martial art of Aikido ;-) And whilst I’m definitely very much a novice, it’s still quite amazing to experience the strength and power that can arise without physical effort or brut force.

Aikido means ‘The way of harmony of spirit’ and uses natural movements like yielding and flow to divert an attackers energy rather then block it or fight it. And it really does demonstrate that the harder we try, the less effective we often become. During the class there are frequently times when I forget this. I start tensing my muscles, revert to old habits and exert physical effort to push back against my opponent, only to discover how swiftly they are able to overpower me ;-)

And this is so true in life and in business too.

I regularly train managers and leaders in organisations how to coach their teams to increase levels of engagement and accomplish greater success. Very often though, the most common challenge for these managers is to stop trying so hard to fix the problem, find a solution or do it all themselves and, instead, use skillful questioning and listening for example to allow the other person to come up with their own ideas.

In a way, very much like aikido, the harder you push as a manager the less empowered and engaged your staff will become and the further you move away from your goal.

And in life too we see people struggling, striving and grasping all the time, making hard work of things, increasing their stress levels, depleting their energy and very likely creating more of what they don’t actually want.

So where in your life are you trying too hard? What are you grasping at or pushing away? Where could you yield a little, go with the natural flow of things and achieve more with less?

I like to remember this favourite old story (apologies, I don’t know it’s origin)

A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the Sensei “What do you wish from me?” the master asked. “I wish to be your student and become the finest kareteka in the land,” the boy replied. “How long must I study?” “Ten years at least,” the master answered. “Ten years is a long time,” said the boy. “What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?” “Twenty years,” replied the master. “Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?” “Thirty years,” was the master’s reply. “How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?” the boy asked. “The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way.”

So relax a little
Enjoy your week