Handstands for Leadership: Find Your Flow in Five Easy Steps
Updated: Aug 1
I've been catching some healthy banter about my handstands on social media lately. It's pretty funny to hear the comments ranging from "You're crazy" to "I'm rooting for you." The most common question I get is, "Why are you doing it?" The honest-to-universe-truth is, I didn't have a profound reason to why, other than I was curious to see if I could someday incorporate a handstand into my yoga practice. This whimsical decision contradicts everything I've ever learned from a business and program management perspective. There are no metrics, no work-back plan, no defined milestones and no timeline. Just me and handstands, everyday, for five minutes. I love it and I keep being drawn to doing them day after day. Why?
Last month on a flight to a business conference, I watched a Netflix documentary called, Happy It takes viewers on a global journey in search of what makes people happy. In Happy, they talked about the term "Flow". I've heard of the term, in yoga, art and sports but I never really knew what it meant. Now, I know and understand why handstands are so fascinating.
Flow is a state termed by positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, more commonly known as being "in the zone." Flow is the positive mental state of being completely absorbed, focused, and involved in an activity, as well as deriving enjoyment from being engaged in that activity. Being in flow has been described by many as feeling lost in time, being fully immersed and in the moment with the activity, being in the absence of ego and the world's problems, and feeling happy. Bingo! That's how handstands make me feel!
But what draws me back, day after day? Csikszentmihaly, reports there are eight characteristics of flow and I have to admit I experience all eight when I do handstands, write, paint, and coach. But there's one experience that's not mentioned which I find extremely valuable, and it's how I relate the handstand learnings to life. These "a-ha" moments can be so timely with what I'm experiencing in other parts of my life and career. They come as either new enlightenment or a reminder of something I once learned and forgotten. These are my handstand learnings that I've fused back into my life and career:
Handstands: When I first started handstands, I was scared of falling so I started with safety tip #1, know how to fall. I spend 95% of my time wobbling and falling. On a good day 5% of my time is balanced upside down.
Life: In life, falling is expected. Failing is expected. But do we have a safety plan for falling and failing? To manage falling in life, I like to practice "failing-forward". I try to look at every opportunity, including falls, as a growing opportunity. I ask myself, "What worked? What didn't work? And, how would I show up differently next time?"
Close Your Eyes
Handstands: My natural instinct with being completely upside down is to look at the ground to find my balance. Three months into my practice, I built good strength and endurance in my upper body but became frustrated with my lack of balance. I just couldn't figure out why I couldn't balance for more than a few seconds. So one day, I closed my eyes and did a mini-meditation right before practicing my handstands and asked the Universe, "What do I need to do differently to balance? What am I not seeing?" Here's the response I heard, "What are you looking for with your eyes? Balance isn't seen, it's felt. Close your eyes." So, I kicked up into my handstand on the wall, tucked my head straight ahead and closed my eyes. This allowed for straighter posture in the neck. I also could feel more engagement in my hips, gluts and abs. I was able to hold my handstand for a couple of seconds longer with internal awareness.
Life: Many of us aim for goals with that of what we can see with our eyes and we seldom define how we want to feel as part of the goal. When defining goals, identify the feeling you're after. For example, if you want to make more money, you might be aiming for security or peace of mind. If you are aiming to lose 10 pounds, maybe you're aiming to feel confident. If you're aiming to do a handstand, then maybe you're wanting to feel grounded and weightless when you feel like your world is upside down (that's me).
Ask For Help
Handstand: Last month, I hit another plateau and started to feel a little bored with my handstands. I wasn't experiencing enough growth to keep me really passionate about the practice. It was also time to learn a few new tricks to build into my workout repertoire. So, I reached out to my trainer Alani Carbullido (BodySoul LLC) to do two things, 1.) assess my handstands and 2.) teach me new exercises and tricks. I'm halfway through my sessions with Alani and feel inspired by my growth again.
Life: When you're stuck, ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness. In contrary, it's a sign of leadership. When we witnesses another person say, "I need help" most people react with a sense of respect and admiration for the other person's courage, wisdom and self-awareness. These are all signs of authentic leadership.
Here's The Net/Net
The universe is based on growth. Growing and self development makes us happy. That's why our passions and curiosity are so undeniable. They are the breadcrumbs to follow on your path to growth and happiness. There's one consistent characteristic I find in authentic leaders and that's the quest for growth and happiness. Find your growth through flow with this Life xSpearmint.
Take a deep breath and exhale to reduce the cortisol (stress hormone) in your brain. This opens up your mind space to new creative insights.
Write the first few activities that come to mind where you'd like to learn how to do something or learn more about something. Don't over think it. Just go with your gut (e.g., golf swing, slow-cook recipes, gardening, public-speaking).
What is it you'd like to accomplish and how will you feel when you accomplish it? (e.g., A garden full of blooming hydrangeas. I'll feel at one with nature, happy.)
What's one activity you can commit to for a minimum of 3-5 minutes daily to learn or develop this new "something" (e.g., research, practice)?
On your journey, remain aware of meaningful learnings and growth. How do these learnings relate to your current life circumstances. What new perspectives are they providing you?