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gumby! test

Yoga for the Soul

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: highlimitzz

Hi folks!  We’re out celebrating Labor Day, but we haven’t forgotten you.  This week we offer three old favorites for your reading enjoyment.  We’ll be back next week with more new posts.

This Post originally published September 14, 2009.

How can you streeeetch to become more flexible?

A friend of mine has become a serious part-time nature photographer. After having worked for several years in a highly left-brain technical field, he has put both sides of his brain together to create some beautiful art. In picking his equipment, he focused on all the technical doohickeys that make what he has great. Once he’s out in the wild, he gets caught up in the wonder of nature and records it at the rate of many frames per second. Then, he chooses which pictures of the many hundreds he took are suitable for publishing.

There are two things that strike me about this process. The first is that he throws away more pictures than he keeps. He can do this because digital pictures cost nothing once he’s bought the basic equipment. There’s no film to buy and no processing fees. It truly costs him nothing to experiment and learn as he goes. This creates tremendous freedom and tremendous opportunity to learn. The cost of his photos is all in the cost of the trip. Once he’s there, not taking pictures is more expensive than taking them, even if he discards 99% of them.

The second thing that struck me is that as he sorts through all his pictures the number of possibilities increases just because he sees all the potential pictures. When film was the medium, the resources were scarce because the photographer had to worry about how much film to use on each part of the trip. The blessing of a good photographic opportunity at the beginning of the trip meant that there was a possibility that there wouldn’t be enough film for the end of the trip. The photographer had to self-edit as he considered what photographs to take. Now, because he can take more pictures, there is less self-editing and the more pictures he takes and reviews, the more he learns and the better he gets.

The Self-Editing Habit

Unfortunately, we learned early to self-edit. We do it now without even being conscious of it. As a matter of fact, we are so good at it that it takes real effort for us to let go and be crazy creative. We’ve been taught what’s within the acceptable range so thoroughly that we seldom step outside the boundaries. We become conventional, we think inside the box.

Last week on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Paul Solman, the News Hour’s business reporter, did a piece on how the job market has changed. What he discovered probably wouldn’t bother the folks coming into the work force today, but for those of us who were raised more conventionally, the old style long-term job is gone. There were lots of contracting opportunities – in some cases a try it before you buy it scenario. In other cases, the company liked the flexibility of hiring contractors and letting them go as economic conditions changed. For us, a highly unconventional situation.

What struck me was that whether the person was hired as a contractor or hired as an employee, the projected outcome wasn’t really different. Although the employee felt that they would potentially be more secure, the fact is that in today’s work environment, you’re there until you’re not. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.

Try a Little Gumby

As I get older, I become more and more convinced of how right I am about some things. This can make me a bit inflexible (no comments from the peanut gallery). Yet one of the things I am certain of is that the ability to respond to situations flexibly is essential to our mental health. For us to be flexible, we need to be able to look for answers that fall outside the “normal” range that we usually work in.

Several years ago I worked for a woman who had a Gumby on her desk. She was one of the most flexible people I’ve ever known. Our job was to develop training on software that was still being written. She kept Gumby there to remind all of us that we needed to be able to go with the flow. Business requirements controlled what went into the software. The software controlled what we needed to train and if the business requirements changed, we would change. There would be no “But we already developed that module.” We would simply start modifying what we had done. There was no time to complain. No one cared what it would take to deliver. They only cared that we be ready when the software was rolled out.

Don’t Complain, Adapt

Often, the biggest problem we have with being flexible is that we’re so angry that this is happening to us. We spend LOTS of time complaining – either to ourselves or to others – about the unfairness of what is happening. Not to be too blunt about it – our complaints don’t matter – fair or not, this is the new reality. Life is that way, it gives us what it gives us. It’s what we do with it that counts.

I got caught up in one of these last week before I left to visit my father. As I’ve mentioned before, my darling doggy doesn’t travel well. (To be blunt, she pukes after a couple of miles – and once she starts, like most of the motion sick, she just keeps doing it.) So, I’ve never taken her anywhere. Before I adopted her, I had intended to train her as a therapy dog. That would require that she be able to travel further than around the block, so that never happened. When I leave home, she gets boarded. I usually board her at PetSmart because they have doggie play days or play hours (for a charge, of course). I had totally forgotten that she needed to have a booster on one of her vaccines. By law, it’s only required annually, but many kennels require it semi-annually. To add insult to injury, I got caught by the Labor Day weekend. Oy!!! In the end, I had to make emergency arrangements, but not before I had complained and complained and complained. Given that when I discovered the problem, I had about 1 hour and 45 minutes to solve the problem, I didn’t have time to complain.

In a hurry, I had to get more flexible – more flexible about how much I would pay, about how far I would go, about what services would be available at the kennel. And I did get flexible, but before that I made myself and everyone else miserable.

My Gumby supervisor knew that. She knew what we all know. Complaining doesn’t change anything. It just eats up time until we get down to the business of solving the problem.

Stretch Those Adaptation Skills

Complaining has another negative consequence – it seriously threatens our good attitude. It is much easier to solve problems when we are feeling good than when we’re already feeling overwhelmed. It is AMAZING how quickly complaining can take us into the pits – I know, I just did it.

How do you deal with the unexpected? I suggest a three step process:

1. Evaluate the TRUE magnitude of the change.

Is this an inconvenience? Does it require that you rework your plans in a major way or just move things around a little bit?

2. Brainstorm possibilities.

List all the things that you could do to respond to the situation. After you’ve made the list, figure out which:

  1. creates the least amount of havoc.
  2. seems to be the best solution.
  3. fits into the timeframe.

3. Pick a solution and take action.

Life is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans

Oh look, PattiAnn did it again, she quoted a cliché. I KNOW I QUOTED A CLICHÉ. The reason it’s a cliché is because it’s so true!!! We aren’t planning on adversity, but we get it anyway and we must respond to it. Sometimes, it truly is adversity. Sometimes, it is just different than what we expected and because it is different it feels like adversity. When we respond like Gumby, we create a larger universe of possibilities. Within that larger universe, we can make choices, which may even be better than what we had planned.

How can you streeeetch to become more flexible?

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