When the instructor demonstrated this pose, chin stand, during my yoga workshop, I thought it was for inspiration. But no, he actually expected us to try it. This pose terrifies me. Seriously, it looked like you could break your neck, required superhuman strength and only a few people could do it.
Next thing I knew, there were thuds of hurling bodies. The four guys in the class went to the bottom of a pushup position and started kicking their legs up with reckless abandon. I knew I was stronger than most of the men. So, why wasn’t I joining in? I then noticed the five women in the class were all doing the “restorative” option. Wait a minute. What was this?
Six months earlier I read a Harvard Business Review blog that outlined an observation by IBM’s CEO Ginny Rommety. Women “round down” when they compare their abilities with stated qualifications for a position. By contrast, men “round up” and apply for a position even if they only have 50% of the stated qualifications. Women, with only 60% of the stated qualifications, will take themselves out of the running for a position.
Was I actually witnessing this phenomenon play out in my yoga workshop?
Instructors will remind us, yoga is not competitive. Yoga is you on your mat doing what is right for your body and every body is different. Nice sentiment. I am Type A — driven, determined and things have to get done. There is just no way I could let this gender statistic be a reality if I could change it, even if I was in competition with myself to prove it wrong.
But before I could exercise reckless abandonment, mentally, I had to isolate what made me think I could not do this pose. That was easy — breaking my neck. Logically, the instructor would not teach a pose with a reasonable risk of neck breaking. He told us the weight is actually in your arms and we had done all the warm up and preparation to make our bodies ready to do this pose.
With that and one controlled kick and I was in the pose. I realized, sure there may be fear, but fear shouldn’t stop me from attempting the pose. Fear alone, shouldn’t make me round down and hold back.
I’d love to say, since that time I have been “rounding up,” and here is my list of accomplishments. I’d also love to say I have a winning lottery ticket, my knees don’t creak.
Holding back is in my nature. I have years of habit to undo. What I have found is with awareness and intention I can still attempt the pose or apply for a position that is 40% above my current qualifications with the fear. In yoga it’s breaking down the pose into its important individual pieces, making sure I am warmed up and focused. If I apply the same method from my yoga practice to my professional life, I find that I can dismantle the barriers that prevent me from accomplishing something new professionally. With just three general questions
1. Is this something I want to do? Just because I am afraid, doesn’t mean the fear will stop me.
2. Am I involved in making this goal happen versus waiting for something to happen?
3. Who will be on my team? Who will hold me accountable and who have done what I am trying to do.
This worked great last year when I took an international assignment in China. Using these steps, I am now launching this website. After the initial idea, I was terrified, kind of like that chin stand experience. But, once my mind was set, I was going to follow through. Success, flail or fail. Fear was not going to stop me. I broke down the project into actionable items.
Next, I determined what pieces I had and what support would I need. Who did I need to round out my team? While some were mentors, some cheered me on and others held me accountable to the timeline that I had set out for myself.
Will I be successful every time? Please. Even in the short time between initial concept and launch, there were a few epic fails. My trying to take my own photos with an iPhone, money spent on a template that didn’t work and one incident that is an entire article unto itself.
Once I started, stopping was not an option.When babies first start to walk, they don’t try to take a few steps, fall and say, “Well, you know, that walking thing is not for me.”They fall, stumble, flail and laugh. Until one day, finding their balance, overcoming fear, uncertainty and doubt, they walk. So, here it is my baby steps and bousbous.com.
Sheila, I enjoy your blog. You should read http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/ It will speak to you!
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Thank you. This is so recent and so timely. I hope the awareness of the confidence gap will have an impact.
I really like what you are doing here. This particular one speaks to me for where I’m at in my professional and yoga life. Fore arm balance is my goal pose for the year. Time to kick it up a notch!
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Hi Leanne – I guess it’s time for us to have a kick start.