When I first begun practicing yoga, it would be an understatement to say that I did not buy into the supposed power of the psychological and spiritual aspects of the practice. Save the New Age psycho-babble for the therapist couch, I was a results oriented person and I was there to get my sweat on.
From almost my first class, I remember hearing the mantra,“Yoga is a practice. Be in the moment. Breathe. Let go of the outcome.” Beautiful sentiment but not for me. I was more interested in rocking some of the trickier poses with the effortless ease of my teacher or lusting after the model perfect stomachs of some of my peers.
Eight years on and (almost) 4 babies later, I can say for sure that while I have achieved most of my more superficial goals (it still feels amazing to master your asana, get back into shape after baby and so on) the real reward has been my love affair with the doing of yoga itself. In fact, it is only because I fell in love with the practice- the nuance and feel of the stretch, the flow of the breath, the strain of the effort- that I have been able to achieve my end goals. Ironically enough, in the end the goal itself feels almost…inevitable. I guess you could say that I am now evangelical - a true believer in the larger message of the practice of yoga as the reward.
According to the work of Barry J Zimmerman, professor of educational psychology, a persons’ motivational belief is key to their ability to self-regulate and control personal behaviours. In other words, successfully summoning up the grit and dedication necessary to achieve big goals is as much about wanting the results as being motivated by the work necessary to achieve them.
Ultimately, aren’t we all more successful when we actually enjoy what we are doing?
Developing a process for success that is intrinsically motivating was a catalyst of sorts in my own life.
I remember, not too long ago, looking at the people who most inspired me thinking- how do they do it? It was often easiest to chalk it up to a stroke of luck, a natural aptitude or a deck of good cards - something divine and out of my control. While it is true that any one of those gifts is a huge advantage, I have come to believe there is more to the story. After all, why are some people able to make the very most out of the hand they are dealt while others harbour regret over the things left undone?
As it turns out the "how to" part of goal achievement that I was discovering in practice was being researched and answered empirically by Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. Dwerk distills the concept beautifully as the Power of Not Yet, the belief that abilities can be developed and that “becoming is better than being”.
This growth or mastery mindset grounded in process is a powerful advantage. The results almost feed on themselves. Seemingly unrelated challenges- say a press handstand vs. a business sales objective- are approached in the same way. Breaking the end goal down into a series of small achievable, repeatable steps then figuring out which ones you actually enjoy doing. The focus and joy become mastering the craft of doing, letting go of the outcome is inevitable.