I have noticed a recurring theme among my clients lately. I suspect that it is in part due to the “back-to-school” mentality that we all seem to adhere to this time of year. And that theme is the urge to push, push and push some more in order to power through whatever we have in front of us. And yet, that approach does not always serve us. Often what is actually more productive and is needed is rest, relaxation, leaning back some and perhaps even letting go.
I had a personal example of that this morning that is very concrete. I went to see my doctor about a toe that has less mobility than in the past and is sore. I admitted that I have been doing extra stretching of the toe to try to power through the lack of strength and mobility I was finding. He told me that actually that is just the opposite of what I should be doing. He said not to stretch the toe beyond its limits and to rest it and ice it after doing yoga or any of the many kinds of activities that use my feet. He said I could do what activities I normally do but don’t push.
My first thought was of course I push—I am type A and tend to think that if something needs to happen or change that I should force it forward. Well, I am so glad that my doctor embraced the power of being gentle. He added some material to my shoe orthotics and I already feel like my toe is easing and softening and healing. What a helpful reminder that pushing is not always useful. And that is so true of much in life.
I notice that there is a commonly held belief among executives that the way to success is to push and power your way up. And certainly there is much to be said about leaning in and fully engaging with your work. However, I have found that the executives who are the most fulfilled and also the most effective in their positions have learned the balance between when to push and when to ease up. For instance, think about the daunting task of making changes in an organization. If you understand the balance of give and take and recognize that change takes time, then you will be best served by being patient. When you allow for people to shift and gel at their own rate, you are going to have a better outcome. You can’t force a new process. Well, you can try, but in all likelihood it will backfire.
Think about your experiences with your family and friends. Interpersonal relationships are most certainly an area where the conflict between push and pull plays a huge role. Can you think of times when you powered through and asserted your will without regard to the other person? No judgments here, we all do it from time to time. Sometimes the other person is on the same page. Unfortunately, when we are very close to someone we often assume we know what they think—like we can read their mind. However you can’t truly know what the other person is thinking without asking them. So when you push through when the other person really has a different view it can lead to arguments and feelings of disregard in both directions.
An alternative approach is to adapt an allowing style. Rather than pushing your way through, you begin by sharing what you are feeling and then ask the other person to share what they are feeling. Holding the space with ease, take your time to understand each other’s perspectives. Although you might feel uncomfortable when you disagree, you have a better chance of coming up with a solution if one is needed, or coming up with way to move forward. That’s the beauty of letting go and welcoming ease into your life.
So the next time you recognize that you are working really hard and pushing full on but not getting anywhere, consider practicing stepping back and giving yourself some time and space to find the easy way through. You might find that relaxing is just what the doctor ordered.