Expanding your mind
“A good goal is like a strenuous exercise –
it makes you stretch.
— Mary Kay Ash
One of the best yoga classes I have ever attended was actually geared towards preschoolers. I was in my late teens at the time, working in a kid’s gym inside a full-service fitness facility. One of the yoga teachers at the facility started offering morning yoga classes to the little kiddies in our department so whichever of us was on duty at the time would not just supervise, but also join in. And it was great!
Because the class was broken down into a simple form that the young kids could understand and get excited about, I found myself picking up small details of yoga that I don’t think I would have noticed otherwise. And the one piece that really stood out to me is that the teacher would have the kids first sit in a basic seated position (see above) and lean forward to see how close they could get to their nose to their toes. Then, after doing a few minutes of other simple yoga poses, she would bring the kids right back to this first seated position to see how much further they could stretch. It was a great way to show the kids every few minutes a concrete example of what these stretching exercises were doing for their muscles, how much more flexible they were becoming.
This is not only a great lesson in goal planning, to stop and check in to see how far you’ve gotten in personal and professional goals, it’s also a great reminder to stop and celebrate how far you’ve come in any area of life. In the same way that increasing muscle flexibility takes time and can’t be hurried or forced, I believe that overcoming unwanted habits or thought patterns should be warranted plenty of time and patience for the mind to expand into new ways of working.
Say you want to stop being judgmental or beating yourself up internally. This is something that most people do and have done for their entire lives. Which, of course, means that it’s not the easiest thing to just quit cold turkey! I’ve found that it’s helpful if I go in small steps — any time I catch myself thinking “what a stupid thing to do” or “ack, that’s just like me to [insert frustration here]” I take a moment to change that thought. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of, “man, why did I make such a bad decision there” to “oh crap, there I go being all negative again” to “shoot, I was gonna stop being hard on myself” to “why am I still failing at my goal of changing my thought patterns” and on and on and on…
Instead, with the idea of changing that thought without falling into a spiral of even more frustration, I think of the example of yoga and stretching and how just a few minutes every day can make a difference over the long run. And this gives me the space to realize that by grabbing that “what a stupid thing to do” thought and changing it to something along the lines of “hey, I tried something new and learned a helpful lesson along the way” I’m working little by little to expand that big ol’ brain of mine into new ways of thinking and being over time.