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Finding Balance

September 2, 2010

Yoga practitioners know that many poses require balance. At first, some of these poses can prove quite challenging, especially for those who lack strength in their core muscles.

The challenge though is only partly physical. Balance is a mindset as well as a posture. Seeking balance requires proper alignment between our minds and our bodies, our intentions and our actions. Disaster readiness and resilience, like balance, requires us to focus and use our core strength to maintain stability.

How do we develop the mental and physical abilities required to maintain a stable posture amidst the complexity and uncertainty of a crisis or disaster? Taking a page from yoga practitioners, I would like to suggest we follow five simple steps:

  1. Take a risk. Playing it safe and avoiding challenges isolates us from opportunities to learn what we can do. Exposing ourselves to new situations requires us to take chances. Sometimes these chances involve working with new people or putting ourselves in unfamiliar situations. The uncertainty surrounding others’ expectations of us and how we will perform in the moment often sidelines us. But these risks pale in comparison to the certainty that our abilities will atrophy unless we learn how to apply ourselves to the challenges of adapting to novel situations.
  2. Find a focus. Like the lighthouses that direct ships arriving on distant shores in unfamiliar seas under stormy conditions through the swells and clear of the shoals, we all need a focal point to guide us safely to our destinations. Your metaphoric beacon may be something as simple and ethereal as an ideal or a principle or something as complicated and concrete as the completion of a complex project. In either case, though, it is your conception of that end result and why it matters that will guide your intuition by steadying your hand on the tiller when the winds of change grow in speed and strength.
  3. Loosen up. Changing our position or posture requires movement, and movement from one position to another usually requires abandoning the familiar. Even when we shift position to alleviate discomfort, we often experience stress as we get accustomed to our new posture and surroundings. It’s only natural to experience tension during such transitions. Loosening up is the only way to avoid the certainty of fatigue and injury though. Remember, after deciding to take the risk you have accepted the possibility of all outcomes; that was the hardest part. Maintaining resolute focus can help you stay your course. Drifting or wobbling is expected and okay as you develop core strength and achieve a degree of comfort in the new position.
  4. Embrace the falling. As we develop new core strengths we will inevitably encounter failures. If the risk was worth taking in the first place, then falling is part of the thrill of discovering our limits and learning to adapt. The process of failing is a lot less painful if we have prepared ourselves beforehand by accepting the risk, focusing on an objective and relaxing so we open ourselves to the experience. One of the easiest ways to lose focus is to shift our attention off our objective. This often happens when we let the stress of maintaining our posture take over our thoughts. This can occur anytime our worries about falling, whether borne of the fear of experiencing the pain of impact or the embarrassment we might experience by looking foolish to others, overwhelm our sense of purpose.
  5. If you fall, get back up again. The pain we imagine will result from falling is often worse than the pain that actually results from our failures. One of the quickest and surest ways to ameliorate the pain is to get back up and try again. Your grit and determination will often be rewarded by the admiration and respect of others. Besides success gives all the more satisfaction when it comes with full knowledge of the cost of learning.

Emergency management is a misnomer. Emergencies resist management by definition. Our energy and effort are best directed at developing the core strengths required to manage our response to emergencies rather than deluding ourselves into thinking we can manage events themselves. Seeking balance under these circumstances makes all the difference in the outcomes we can achieve.

We will not succeed in everything we seek to accomplish. But by engaging challenges as calculated risks imbued with a sense of purpose, at ease with ourselves and prepared not only to fall but to get up again, we will make a difference by showing others in our households, businesses and communities how they can find balance in the midst of chaos.

Just remember to smile. Breath. And go slowly.

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