Exercising Progressive Habits
I use the term, progressive habits, to mean the activities you intentionally practice that bring you forward in life – helping you handle new or difficult situations with greater ease.
In yoga practice, there are three skills that develop that are immensely helpful and that are acquired through daily use: concentration, flexibility and strength.
- Concentration is the state of a relaxed mind, and after meditation or breathing practices, my mental clarity and ability to focus on the positioning of the body increases substantially.
- Flexibility is the state of a relaxed body and mind, as anyone who has ever played with a baby can observe how flexible they are. My flexibility increases when I let go (mentally) of the resistance that my body feels to move in a certain direction.
- Strength is the state of a body and mind that is working in harmony with concentration and flexibility, and my strength builds over time as I teach my body to move in desired patterns and positions.
Taking these practices out of yoga class and into everyday life began to happen automatically for me. In conversations or meetings I found myself focused, relaxed and alert; and then I could sense subtle shifts in the energy of the interactions, bringing creative ideas or new directions to the work. I also found that when I engaged in work with the computer I could work much more efficiently to produce what I intended, without feeling distracted by ambient noise, conversations or worries.
My flexibility increased in difficult situations, not only because my body was more relaxed but because my mental outlook, my perspective was positive and open. In yoga we say that when you learn to easily stretch yourself in a really contorted position, you are mastering the pressure of difficult life situations. In managing projects, for example, when we encountered a set-back or needed to shift our focus, I didn’t have the usual mental resistance to change; and as a result I helped the team get over their resistance to change and we could quickly adapt our plans to new circumstances.
When I think about strength in terms of everyday life, I believe it goes beyond the physical attributes of muscle and stamina, and extends into the attributes of will-power, agility and character. The science of yoga offers an immense range of training in knowledge of how to live, and the depth of learning and practicing yoga affects the mental, moral and spiritual qualities of our character. I discovered higher self-confidence to facilitate power meetings with C-level executives, the ability to lead people through uncertainties, and a much higher self-discipline to focus on what’s important, rather than what I like to do.
As I continue to practice yoga, I gain more and more of these skills which then turn into habits in work and interactions with others. And when I demonstrate these habits within teams, I teach them, the team can learn the skills, and I acquire more and more mastery of these skills.
– Doug Lowe, 2016