A Time for Action and A Time to Stop
The society we live in applauds action – getting things done. And yet that is not all there is to life.
I recently had a BIG pause in much of my work – really since my father died last April.
I had to STOP and attend to pressing family matters of various kinds that at times took every ounce of my attention, energy, and emotional reserves.
I didn’t have much time to stop – to pause – and take time for ME though.
I’m fortunate that my training as an Alexander Technique teacher meant I was already skilled in mindful ways to look after myself in the moment and had daily self-care routines set up that, and for the most part I was able to keep going. These provided the fuel for me to get through the most intense physical and emotional challenges of this journey.
Finally, after I returned from my last trip to England when I organized the clearing out of the family home of more than 40 year, it was time to stop.
Instead of throwing myself 100% back into my work immediately, I knew I needed a break.
A REAL BREAK.
And so, I took time off from anything work related (well, almost!) for over two whole weeks over the holidays.
We had a very quiet holiday. As an introvert, this was PERFECT and just what I needed.
It was a time for me to “check out” and “do nothing” – nothing “productive” that is.
It was a time to just BE with no pressure to get anything done.
It was a time to reflect and read and go for walks and watch TV!
When January 2ndcame around, I wasn’t sure I was ready.
Being a solo entrepreneur means I run the show, and it felt hard to get my head around it. And yet I was also excited at the prospect of getting properly back to the work I love.
It certainly felt good to be seeing clients again, but running a business is much more than that.
You have to show up and be visible.
I’d had to show up in a BIG WAY personally over the past nine months, but business-wise I’ve been quiet. You might say I’ve been hiding a little.
Now was the time to start taking ACTION again.
Right before everything turned upside down last spring, I’d been planning some group programs. Now it was time to get something going again. I’ve always loved teaching groups and have been learning and developing new ways of teaching in the online environment that are really powerful, and I’m eager to share them.
And yet I procrastinated.
It felt hard to get moving again.
It would be easy to slip from my much-needed break into complete inertia.
It was time to ACT.
Interestingly, apart from seeing a few private clients, the only thing I did workwise over the past few months, was actually start a new initiative to help caregivers with my friend and colleague, Laura Donnelly. I think there were two critical things that helped me be motivated to take action here.
- This is a very personally meaningful issue for me, having gone through the last few years caring for my parents.
- More importantly, I have a partner in this initiative. Laura helps me be accountable, took the reins for me while I was away in December, and we support each other and keep each other on track with our goals. Without her I would not have acted on this yet. I am so grateful to be working with her on this.
[If you are responsible in any way for the care of someone else, you should check out our free 7-Day Easy Peasy, Itsy Bitsy, Bite-Sized Self-Care Challenge for Caregivers which starts on February 4th. :)]
But what would help get me moving on the group program I wanted to run?
Well, it turns out being accountable to other people, in the same way I am with Laura, was a big part of the equation.
I started working again with my business coach, Joy Bufalini, who gave me a huge boost in motivation. I also started having weekly meetings with a friend and colleague, who also wanted help with accountability and reaching her goals.
This prompted me, a few days ago, to do some free-writing on why I still hadn’t got my course out there.
I realized that perfectionism was showing up big time, and was stopping me taking action…until I called it out!
I wanted the course to be perfect. I wanted the timing to be perfect, and my web page, and everything about it to be perfect!
This was holding me back from actually getting the classes up and running, the classes that would enable me to do the work I love and help people!
By listening to myself I was aware of the difference in quality of inaction due to a need for rest, and that of inaction due to a “stuckness.” When I addressed this stuckness – my familiar habit of perfectionism – I was able to free myself up and get moving again. To have moved into action without that awareness would have created an internal battle with myself, taking me out of alignment and increasing my tension.
Self-awareness cannot be skipped if we want to live and act in balance and ease with ourselves.
Being accountable to others helped me be accountable to myself, inducing me take the plunge and look at what was going on, so I could address what I need to do to get unstuck.
In my free-writing I gave myself a “good talking to” – in a positive and compassionate way, of course.
Now was the time for ACTION.
So…I have an imperfect web page about the course up and have already announced it to my email list. In fact, people are enrolling already!
[If you’re interested in my approach and would like to have a step by step method to help you cultivate more ease, flow and comfort in youself, the BodyIntelligence Online Foundation Course starts on Thursday, February 7. You can find all the details and register here: https://imogenragone.com/bodyintelligence-online-foundation-course/]
There is both a time for action, and a time to stop.
A time to rest and restore, to reflect and integrate.
A time to just be.
AND, there comes a point when it’s time to stop stopping.
It’s important, when the time is right, to get moving again.
There’s a time and a place for both in your life.
As an Alexander Technique teacher, the idea of stopping, of pausing for just a moment, to reset and shift your awareness in a way that cultivates more ease and flow, is not new. It’s part of what we teach and practice every day.
We need the Yin and the Yang and the awareness to discern when is the right time for each.
Can you allow yourself time to stop? Time to pause? Do you?
And do you know when it’s time for action again? So you don’t stagnate?
What strategies do you use to motivate yourself, to keep you accountable, to keep you moving forward in the things that are important to you, to get you unstuck? Are you also a “recovering perfectionist?”
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment in the space below.
Photograph © microstock77 / 123RF Stock Photo
Hi Imogen, I’m really glad to hear you are pushing on with your plans. Several things in your post connected with me; the need to recover after bereavement of course, but also procrastination caused by perfectionism. Years ago I used to be a draughtsman, actually using a pentel pencil on paper. I used to catch myself hanging back from putting pencil to paper as I felt the need to get the view in exactly the right place.
What sticks out for me is how connecting with your friends and colleagues helped.
In my “favourite” thinking system GoMAD we spend time brainstorming key questions, the first of which is “Who Can Help?”
GOT THE FRIEND.
NEXT, NEED TO WRITE AN IMPERFECT PROPOSAL.
I THINK THE EMPHASIS SHOULD BE ON IMPERFECT, because what IMOGEN has written is PERFECT.
Thank you, Andrzej! 🙂
Great question, Kevin! I will have to look into GoMAD!! 🙂
A question I’ve been putting to myself a lot recently is “How easily can I do this?” This seems to help not only come up with ways to approach a problem or piece of work that I might not otherwise think of, but also helps me let go of the tension in my system associated with work itself. My aim is to work smarter not harder!!
Imogen, it’s like one of the questions you advised me to ask myself during our sessions–“Can I do less?” That helped me realize how much needless physical force I was using to do things at work and in the kitchen, and how much more gently I could do them. It makes sense that this applies to thinking about problems too!
I agree that accepting imperfection and finding someone to keep you accountable are key to getting out of a slump. Especially in the winter, I tend to avoid the things that take more effort (though I’m still doing cycles of ease and constructive rest because they’re relaxing and don’t take too much time!). I need to find someone to help me stick to my exercise routine!
Hi Julie, fwiw I’ve come at exercise from all directions. At the moment I’m finding that scheduled classes really help. Once I’ve booked it, it’s in the calendar and therefore a commitment. Unlike, say, walking or exercise at home. Classes are also a great example of getting help from others. There’s that feeling of “we’re all in it together” which encourages me to work harder, and it’s also a social thing.
That’s interesting, Kevin. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes a class that you’ve booked and put on a calendar is a commitment, and being in the class is getting help from others. Another helpful approach can be doing it with a friend – whether it’s walking, taking a class, or anything else. Because you’ve arranged to meet the friend, you’re so much more likely to get out for that walk when it’s cold, for instance, than just left to your own devices.
Julie – lovely to hear from you, and that you are still using what you learned with me! I think you’re right that the season – winter – might also have had something to do with it, too. Good luck with your exercise routine!!