Last March, I shared how I was thinking about “Marinating” as a “Strategy” for getting results, and why sometimes it can help to relax and back off of something for awhile instead of forcing an outcome. It was something I was still learning to do at the time, and am now practicing in a way I never knew I could (or would). As a result, my focus is shifting away from getting ‘results’, which may sound a little crazy, but as a result of not thinking about results I’m getting better results. And I’m happier, and much, much healthier, and the people around me are happier as a result of me not thinking about results. Why didn’t I do this years ago?
Research into productivity, ‘flow’, the creative process, visionary leadership, and other topics supports this notion of letting go and focusing on being vs. doing. And yet, at least in the US, I know very few people who embrace or practice it. We’re always “doing”, trying to make things happen, get things done, go places… Most of us don’t give ourselves any time to just “be”. The reasons why may be a little different for everyone, but for me (until recently) it was about wanting to be valuable. I didn’t understand what it meant to “be”, and I thought it was selfish, lazy, and irresponsible not to be contributing or “doing”. Why would I want people to stop needing me? Wouldn’t I lose control? Wouldn’t I be worthless? It was really, really hard to change, but I knew I needed to because I was over-stressed, tired, and wondering where all the fun and meaningfulness had gone.
A few months after embracing the idea of “Marinating”, I began a Bikram yoga practice that turned out to be a perfect vehicle for my transition from “doing” to “being”. The health and fitness benefits have been transformational, and it shuts out everything else for 90 minutes. I literally can’t DO anything for 90 minutes but focus on my breath trying to do the 26 postures to the best of my ability in each moment. And interestingly enough, the key to improving in any posture is learning to relax the right muscles — to let go. Afterward, every problem seems smaller. Solutions spring up from seemingly nowhere. Connections with people are deeper and more meaningful. Laughter is everywhere. Gratitude is my first reaction to almost everything.
Turns out, in addition to better results and a happier life, there’s another benefit to hanging back and letting go at the right times. And for those of us who are averse to being selfish, it’s a compelling one. I’ve not only allowed myself to be more creative… I’ve also allowed others to contribute and innovate more. I knew this was true a long time ago, thanks to good mentors and coaches, but knowing and embracing are different things. Now, even though my instinct is still to step in and get things done, I try to remember to take a breath and ask myself “is this mine?”. Meaning: Is it important? Do I need to own it? Is the timing right? Could someone else benefit from doing it? Does it even need to be done? If not, then I take another breath and try to just let it go with a smile, reminding myself that letting go is doing, AND being, something good and valuable. It’s making the world a better place, one deep breath at a time.