Letting go of Excellence and finding Compassionate Excellence

It’s been awhile and there have been lots of changes I’ve been meaning to write an update but that takes awhile so I’d thought I’d simply post a recent article I posted on LinkedIn. Otherwise it could be another few months before I get round to writing something new.

Compassionate Excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good with compassion for self and others.

When I was a young and ambitious twenty-something I was all about excellence at work. It was naturally me. I wanted to be the best at everything. In fact this was a habit from school. I was a bright kid. I did well academically, I had good friends who challenged me to excel. 

This trend went from school to university. I always strived to do my best and in the world of work I sought out high performance cultures in investment banking, finance and consultancy like many of my contemporaries.

This lead me to write the Energy Equation. As I delved more into energy and performance over the past few years I realised I had a problem with the word excellence. Especially how it comes across in corporate speak.

It’s not that I can’t do excellence but it no longer means what it once meant. It now represents false motivation for workaholics. Excellence now reeks of competition, hard work and the constant pressure to stay at the top.

Excellence produces great material rewards but it has major downsides

  • It is exhausting: I had to be excellent at all times of the working day. Excellence didn’t consider the natural ebbs and flow of energy in the body and if it did then you had to hack the body in order to maximize your performance.
  • Excellence looked like pretending to be upbeat even when you were exhausted
  • Excellence meant not enjoying downtime: I found it hard to relax at the weekend, I needed to be doing something. I felt I had to be productive all the time. Rest needed to be earned and I was not deserving of rest unless I had produced something of excellence to make it worthy. My time had to be used effectively
  • Excellence wasn’t much fun: There was little time for celebration or acknowledge of accomplishments. When excellence is the standard then why celebrate what is to be expected.

This intensified when I set out in my own business as I took my corporate model of working with me, which doesn’t work as well as an entrepreneur. I whipped myself into trying to be effective all of the time. When the ideas were flowing that was great but when I ran out of creative energy and felt blocked I would castigate myself for not performing at an outstanding level.

This isn’t unique to me. In my observation of coaching high performing executives and entrepreneurs many people feel the same. In conversation they would share with me the guilt they feel when trying to relax on the weekend.

So in the past year I decided to try something different. I rebelled I, tried the other way I decided not to pursue excellence. I threw away trying to do my best all the time and made it ok to do nothing. I had a great summer off. I did a lot of reading. I binge watched tv. I dabbled in some creative work creating new material and actively slowed myself down.   I forced myself to go slow.

But in forcing myself to go slow I realised I went overboard. This wasn’t as fulfilling as I expected. There was underneath it all a drive to step into my true potential.  Sitting down watching TV just didn’t cut it for me. There was something in my spirit that called for something greater. When I listened to what I really wanted, it was to be outstanding but this time for myself. Not excellence in the eyes of others but excellence that is a self-expression of the human spirit. 

I realised then that there was a component missing in the strive for excellence and that was Compassion.

Bringing compassion into the mix changed the game. With compassion I gave up being hard on myself and life became more fun. Pursuing excellence became a joy as it was an innate part of my growth rather than an external measure of success. Intrinsic excellence vs External drivers.

With this new compassion I could bring this to people I worked with and to my leadership and in bringing this compassion I am seeing clients, friends and colleagues start to shift too.

Definition: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.

Compassionate Excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good with compassion for self and others.

If you’d like help stepping into compassionate excellence get in touch share your thoughts.

Heal your vision. How to improve your eyesight

Heal your eyesight

 

I’m a real advocate of self-healing. I believe simple exercises such as meditation and yoga practiced over time can prevent illness and also help the body heal itself. In fact I’ve had some amazing experiences of self-healing.

One of my most remarkable cases of self-healing has been the improvement of my eyesight.

I went from being dependent on reading glasses as a teenager and for most of my adult life to being glasses free since 2010.

My lens prescription wasn’t strong, only 0.75, but my main problem was I was dependent on my glasses. I was unable to read for more than 10 minutes without them. 10 minutes of reading and my eyes would get strained and start to hurt. My vision would be out of focus for several hours after.

At this point in my life I was developing the practices in my book The Energy Equation. I meditated regularly and often used guided meditations. I started creating my own meditations and as I did I became increasingly aware of the vast array of organs, muscles and tissues that my body was made up of. I also became aware of my internal energy, what the Chinese would refer to as chi or prana in Sanskrit.

I started noticing the constant tension that my body was in. My muscles were tense, especially my back and shoulders, I had subtle aches and also energy blockages in my body. I characterise energy blockages as areas of the body that feel disconnected or out of sorts. None of these were debilitating, they felt quite normal. But too many of these aches and it is death by a thousand cuts; they lead to more serious ailments.

And that’s the issue most of us have. We are so used to stress that we fail to notice the everyday tension and pain we carry. One of the aims of the book is to get the reader present to their body so that they can then increase their energy.

For me the major surprise was how much tension was in my eyes. My eyes were strained but I didn’t even notice.

Over time I was able to tune into the tiny muscles around my eyes and get them to relax. I would imagine energy flowing to them, and as I did, the tension started to release. It took a bit of practice.

It is like learning to raise one eyebrow. If you’ve ever tried to develop the ability to raise one eyebrow without the other one rising, you’ll notice that is difficult at first. Both eyes move when you want only one to move; Or you can raise one in isolation but not the other. However over time you can learn to isolate the muscles so that you can raise one eyebrow without the other. You are teaching the brain to find and isolate these muscles. The brain creates neural pathways that allow it to do this.
It is a similar principle with eyesight. With some practice you can gain enough sensitivity of feeling in your eyes. You can various components of your eyes and you can gain control over them to allow them to relax.

So the main access is to spend time doing body mindfulness. Spend time just sitting with your eyes closed exploring the sensations in your eyes. My book has some good exercises on body sensitivity.

Additional practices to help your eyesight

No reading first thing in the morning
The biggest thing that worked was the avoiding  reading (or looking at your phone or computer) for at least an hour in the morning. Our eyes were made to be moving, not remaining fixed on a page or phone screen. Go out for a walk in the morning before doing any computer work. When you go out for a walk your eyes get their morning exercise. I found that once my eyes had done this exercise they would be less likely to feel strained throughout the day. If I got up and read straight away I would have blurry vision the whole day and would need my glasses.

Pinhole glasses
Another product that helped were pinhole glasses. I used these for a couple of weeks and I found they helped to strengthen my eyes. They kick started being able to be glasses free.

These three practices helped the most. It took about 4 months of daily practice and the results were pretty quick:

After 2 weeks:
I went from 10 minutes without glasses to 30.

After a month:
An hour without glasses.

Month 2
Two hours without glasses. I can do light computer work now and I don’t feel the need to carry glasses for days when I’m not working.

Month 3
Four hours without glasses. Once you get to 4 hours you effectively don’t need glasses. You just set up your day into small segments where you don’t spend more than 4 hours in front of a screen and you take a long break between segments.

After 4 months

Now I can work a 10 hour day  in front of the computer (with breaks) and I’m fine.
A few additional notes

So here are a few more things I noticed:

Staring at a screen is more straining than reading from paper.
Lighting makes a difference. Use natural lighting as much as possible.
Sit in a comfortable position. When you are uncomfortable your body is in tension and it will be harder to isolate the eye muscles.

Now does this work if you are short-sighted? The principles are the same. You are allowing your eye to relax. It’s slightly more challenging if you are walking outside not being able to see things clearly but you have to trust in the process. The pinhole glasses really help to begin

If you started life with perfect vision I see no reason why that vision can’t be regained.

There are a couple of books that I recommend The handbook of self healing by Meir Schneider.

The Bates method of healing your eyesight Better Eyesight Without Glasses, by William Horatio Bates