Why We Run

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Why We Run

Sometimes I wish I weren’t so busy.

“If only…” I hear myself saying out loud. “If only I had more time, I would…” Fill in the blank. I’d spend more time with my friends. Call my mother. Cook a delicious meal. I’d finally sit down to write that personal memoir I’ve been talking about all these years.


Or would I?


When we’re moving fast, with our calendars booked to the hilt, it’s compelling to muse about what we’d do with a bit of empty space. Yet in my experience, our actual tolerance for downtime is remarkably low. Take my weekend, for example.


For the first time in several months, I had booked weekend entirely at home. There were no workshops, classes, weddings or family gatherings to attend to. As a woman in the process of starting a new business, while pursuing a masters degree, I had no shortage of potential time fillers.  There were a wide variety of large scale projects I could have easily tackled with all of that time. Yet right up to Monday morning, I managed to pack my days start to finish with a variety of nice-to-haves – including an unexpected argument with my partner.


The other less challenging tasks, along with a few hours of much needed recreation, expanded to fill the empty space. And, when the space wasn’t full, I manufactured a disagreement (about I don’t remember what) to ensure that no moment was left unused.


Sound familiar by chance?


It turns out that down time doesn’t usually solve the problem. Research consistently shows that people with busier calendars are more productive. Counter-intuitively, the more you already have on your plate, the more likely you are to get something else done.


What’s more, while we believe that an unscheduled day would afford us the opportunity to tackle those not-urgent-but-important tasks that constantly fall by the wayside, it may actually be harder to get started in the face of the proverbial blank canvas. “Ah!” we think to ourselves, “that would be great! I could do anything if only I had that time.” But for most of us, getting starting an important big project (or a brand new exercise routine) is hard… and there are good reasons why we haven’t already done it.


Why do we run?


One reason, I believe, is to outrun the anxiety we’d ultimately feel if we slowed down and faced our most challenging and meaningful activities head on.


Notice if you balked at that last sentence. Pause. Take a breath. And read it one more time.


Is there some seed of truth for you in the idea that slowing down would be scary? Are there a few important things you’re secretly relieved that you don’t have time to address right now?


If so, no harm, no foul. I have yet to coach a leader who didn’t see this about him or herself at some point in time. Whether you’re a budding artists or an executive at an international bank, you can smile at the wiles of your ego…


and, consider the gold that may be available as you master the art of navigating empty space.


This week, in your movement practice, I’d like to suggest a specific, practical activity. Set a timer for 10 minutes (for most of us, that’s less time than it takes to shower in the morning, or make a pot of coffee). Close the door, feel your body, and move. There are no rules, and there’s no way to do it wrong. Just move your body in any way you like. Allow one movement to lead to the next. Allow moments stillness. Notice your breath.


After your practice, check in with yourself: how was it to create something in the empty space? What changed about your experience from beginning to end? How did you allow or influence that change?


In life,

take a moment to think back over the last week. Did you have down time, and if so, how did you fill it? TV? Shopping? Cleaning house? Taking care of others? Or was this a jam packed busy week of work with little extra room to breath? If so, what was it packed with? Meetings? Travel? Urgent, fire-drill activities? Client calls?


In either case, take a moment to ask yourself: is there an important project or activity that I really care about that didn’t get much airtime, given all that? And, importantly, what if anything scares me about tackling that activity head on?


Whether this coming week looks empty or full, consider scheduling JUST ONE HOUR in your calendar to begin.


Dancing in the space between,




One Comment

  1. Wow. You just touched the place in me that has been hurting.

    I’ve been trying to write a book. I dread the sitting down in front of blank canvas part. First, I resist. I notice the resistance and welcome it. I sit with it. I cry. Because in the stillness I can no longer run away from all that has been breaking my heart. The wave of grief passes.

    Then I’m afraid. My ego tells me I can’t write and that I’ll fail. I breathe through that. I ask it to sit beside me as I get to work and let my Higher Self do the writing. I lose track of time. I’m exhausted after an hour.

    I do it again the next day. The entire process. I dread and adore it.

    I still want to run.

    This is a practice. A tough one. But there is something divine in it.

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