Crazy, Sexy Practice

Image via    Flickr

Image via Flickr

I spent last weekend “recharging”, as they say, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. (Ok, not exactly in the mountains—it was cold and there were reports of bears—but at least nestled between them at the always lovely Highland Center Lodge).

I was there to run Ideas That Move with my colleague Ellen. And even though we were there to work, it still felt energizing, not the least bit depleting. Here was another chance to connect with fantastic women with big ideas for themselves and the world and perhaps more importantly, the patience to stay in the messy, chaotic stage of moving ideas to action during those times when more than anything else, perseverance is required.

Indeed, simply staying in and resolving to work with the messy space between a good idea and a desired action was the focus of our retreat. So we spent each day practicing this, in workshops designed to help participants develop their ideas, lay out their plans, problems, and opportunities, and understand how their work fits into larger systems… and in the yoga studio, keeping our focus on breath and alignment.

The meditation and yoga we did was energizing, too, although what I remember most about it isn’t the breath work or vinyasas. I remember Ellen saying in her usual playful style: “When the mind wanders, the most important thing is just to notice that it wanders and bring it back. Your mind is going to wander, so let that worry go! Just keep coming back. If you can do that, you’re good!”

And then it occurred to me (again… because I probably just needed a reminder) that this is the key to good work, too. Our minds will wander, often rightly so. If we’re out there actually doing something and challenging ourselves, our circumstances will change, there will always be distractions and new things pulling us left and right. The important thing is to keep coming back to a sustained practice for a) taking care of ourselves and our current work and b) moving new work and projects forward.

So whatever muscle you are trying to build, remember your new muscle isn’t so much the point. It’s your commitment to whatever it is you’re doing to grow that muscle. Finished products, outcomes, impacts—these things are hugely important, yes, but you won’t get anywhere near them if you skip the step of planting your feet on the ground exactly where you are now, whatever the circumstances are, and starting there.

The one hike I did take last weekend in the White Mountains involved a lot of muddy slopes and more than few icy, slick wooden planks intended to get me from one place to the next. Sometimes our group stopped to size up the wooden planks. Can we make it? Maybe we should go around. Is that firm ground over there? I noticed I sometimes walked out ahead of the group at a fast clip, noticing the trees, happily chatting away. Other times, I let other folks go ahead of me and trailed behind, carefully following their steps so as not to fall, paying close attention to my own stability, holding on to rocks and trees for leverage. In the middle, the views were incredible. At the end, we were excited to go back in the lodge and warm up by the fire. The rest of the time, it was messy.

Change is hard and inevitably messy. If you’re in the middle of it right now, or if change is something you’re trying to make happen, be prepared for these quite natural stops and starts, or really just fast(er) miles and slow(er) miles. But keep going. Trust that what can feel like chaos in the moment is part of a larger order you and others are creating together. Trust there is more you just can’t see yet.

Read more posts by Lex Schroeder.

About the Author

Lex Schroeder is a writer and speaker on gender equity, systems change, and the future of work. She is a Leadership Ambassador with Take The Lead and is based in NYC. She can be reached Follow her on Twitter@lexschroeder