Submitting ourselves to the ancient rhythms of the internal sea

One beautiful feature of adulthood is that we can make intentional choices about important things like tempo, rhythm, cadence, pace, velocity and trajectory.

Instead of being snagged and troubled by the whirlpools of other people’s emotions and agendas, we can be the ones who dictate our sense of balance, proportion and efficiency. Our life becomes what we decide to make of it. We are responsible for its dispersion.

Pilates, the pioneer of the famous fitness system, had a beautiful maxim around this issue, which has guided his teachings for a century:

As much as necessary, as little as possible.

He trained students to get their bodies to perform simple movements without wasting their effort everywhere else. Instead of burning out by forcing themselves to keep some unnatural pace, he helped them unlock the right movement strategy and efficient distribution of forces.

Doing this requires real focus and effort, as anyone who has taken a few classes will attest. But it’s worth it.

Having been a yoga student for more than a dozen years now, this principle has paid dividends in many ways. During yoga postures, I have learned how to do as much as necessary with one particular muscle group, and as little as possible on the rest. Which leaves full of energy, rather than exhausted.

The cool part is, this lesson applies outside of the studio as well.

In our professional lives, each of us can take ownership of our work pace and see similar results. At my startup job, there are several running questions undergirding my daily work.

How can you do as much as necessary, but little as possible? To some, this may sound a bit like slacking off. But that’s just the capitalist in you. Assuming that doing more equals doing better.

But that’s not a sustainable pace. For me, there is a rhythm from which I can leap into improvisational forays and then safely return, without killing myself. And it really works.

Are you giving yourself permission to work at your own tempo?


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