Stop trying so hard. Just do what you want to.

About a decade ago, when I began practicing yoga, mastering the headstand was one of
my goals. In a Beginner’s Ashtanga yoga class, I did a headstand for the first time.

I was struggling with it initially. But then my teacher came over to me and whispered, “Stop trying so hard.”

That simple statement made a world of difference for me.

Headstands became, and still are, a regular part of my yoga practice. My relationship with this and other challenging poses has evolved over time. It’s not about physical accomplishments anymore.

I do yoga (including poses or postures, meditation and breath work) because I want to — and not so much because it offers tremendous health benefits, relieves stress, and cultivates mindful living (which it does).

I also play piano because I want to – and not so much because it focuses the mind, improves coordination, and enhances discipline (which it does).

Aligning body, breath and mind when I do yoga or hearing music radiate from my fingers when I play piano puts me in the zone. So I naturally and gladly do these things.

In our busy, day-to-day living, we often don’t do what we want to. We rely on to-do lists to tell us how to invest our time. We prioritize tasks based on deadlines and due dates. We diligently return telephone calls and reply to emails. We even do soul-sucking work to pay the bills.

Sometimes there’s no getting around all of that. Unless you want to live off the grid, there are some things you must do, should do, and have to do.

But there are times when obligations, goal-setting, and the need to please begin to take over your life. And that’s when you have to stop, take stock, and just do what you want to.

A little over a week ago, on May 15th, I celebrated my birthday. On that special day, I took a moment to stop, take stock, and ask myself if I was doing what I want to.  The answer was yes, on many levels.

But then it dawned on me that I hadn’t rolled out my yoga mat or tickled the ivories in several days. So I returned to them for the true joy of the experience.

Then, on a recent coaching call with a client, who I’ll refer to as Sally, I learned that she was struggling to get back into swimming (an activity that brings her true joy). She was scared to start. We talked about her fear.

Sally said she was most afraid of starting the activity and then not following through on it (i.e. not being able to make swimming a lasting habit). I asked her why swimming had become a goal to achieve.

Could she let go of turning it into something to fail or succeed at?  Could she simply swim for the sheer joy of it? Could she swim just because she wants to?

When Sally realized that swimming was more of an activity to enjoy, and less of a task to achieve, a sigh of relief emanated from her.  The sense of freedom and power of choice that come with that realization are invaluable.

The next time you find yourself struggling to start, perform or complete a thing, stop trying so hard. Loosen up. Let go. Do it because you want to. Or just do what you want to.

Slomo: The Man Who Skated Right Off The Grid. (Courtesy of YouTube.)


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Photo by: Ian Sane