A student came in last summer and related an experience she’d had over the weekend.
This woman’s very active and walks a lot. She’s a relatively new student and is gradually learning to be able to use her Alexander skills in different situations outside of her lessons.
Any new skill is easy to practice in isolation. It’s more challenging to incorporate it into your already existing activities.
She told me she’d done a long walk over the weekend and didn’t think about any of the things that she’d been learning in her lessons during the walk.
Only when she finished did she realize just how tense she was, and that her jaw was tight.
And? I encouraged her.
And…it was a hot day (the temp had been hovering around 92 degrees F).
And she’d been focused solely on getting the walk over and done with.
That right there was her learning.
Her tension problem?
To end-gain means you focus on getting something done (the end) and are not paying any attention to how you are getting it done (the means).
Machiavelli supposedly said, “the end justify the means” (whether he actually said it or not I don’t know).
In contrast to Machiavelli, the Alexander Technique teaches you to place more importance on the means—the how—not the end result.
Sometimes people misinterpret this to mean that the Alexander Technique teaches you not to have goals.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Set goals. Set big goals for yourself.
But keep in mind how you’re going about getting there.
Especially if it involves pain and strain.
If the means involve pain and strain, then the end result may not justify the means as far as your body is concerned.
As you start to be more aware of your tendency to end-gain you’ll find that certain situations trigger this tendency in you more than others.
For me, outdoor work such as gardening and snow shoveling can trigger an end-gaining attitude if I’m not careful.
I love to work outside. I like being physical and getting dirty.
When I go outside do I have a goal? Of course I do.
I’m out there to shovel the front walk or weed a garden bed or plant my five new yellow coneflowers I bought at the nursery yesterday.
I know from experience that I can pay attention to how I’m getting a job done for about 30-45 minutes. Then, if I don’t take a short break, I can easily slip into Git-R-Done Mode (remember Larry the Cable Guy?)—also known in the Alexander Technique as end-gaining.
And this involves strain. And then as a result, pain.
Just for fun, here’s Larry the Cable Guy who popularized the phrase Git-R-Done
I learned this in a big way a couple of summers ago and you can read all about that here.
Taking a short break (literally stopping) allows me to:
- reset my attitude
- stay present and mindful of how I’m getting my tasks done and
- stop focusing solely on Gittin-R-Done
Can you discover for yourself where you feel most compelled to end-gain?
I’ll give you a tip: it’s probably the places you are the most stressed or rushed during the day. When you feel like you just gotta Git-R-Done.
Those are the moments to literally stop, say no to Larry the Cable Guy’s advice to just Git-R-Done and start paying attention and be curious about how you are physically doing what you are doing.
Ask yourself: am I unnecessarily tightening and tensing myself in an effort to get done whatever it is I think I’ve got to get done?
Like the pigeon on the steps above, keep the top of the staircase in your sights.
But enjoy the journey up the stairs.
Your body will thank you for it!