Headstand as a Life Lesson?

Two weeks ago, I found myself upside down and scared out of my mind. After 12 years of religiously practicing Bikram yoga, I decided to begin exploring the wonders of the headstand in my power yoga class. It was not a decision taken lightly.  As I lifted my feet to a decidedly unnatural position above my head, I pondered two great unknowns: 1) would I break my neck? and 2) could I really become “one of those people” who invert with such confidence and ease?

But before I could answer either of these questions, I was out of the pose, resting comfortably in child’s pose (and slightly in awe of myself). Since that first attempt, I’ve done it about 3 or 4 more times, each time with a little less trepidation, a little less fear and a lot more pride.

I then realized my exploration with the headstand provides four great lessons for personal and professional development:

  1. Being uncomfortable is OK: In a company where change is a constant, I often hear “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” which always struck me as an incompatible state. In hindsight, and with my new “headstand lens,” I realize it’s not only OK to be uncomfortable but it actually makes you grow as a person.
  2. Let go of the outcome: In our formative years, WCG worked with a wonderful professional coach, Pat Newman, whose mantra was “let go of the outcome.” A more recent life coach I’ve worked with, Kelsey Lowitz, helped me find a related mantra – “Let the River Flow.” In other words, life will bring you challenges – that’s guaranteed – but how you deal with them is up to you. Stay open to any possible outcome, whether or not that outcome is one that you brought to the table. Had I not been able to let go of the outcome, my feet would have never left the ground.
  3. Push your limits and change: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Don’t buy it. From small, incremental tweaks to major life changes, new routines can all be good for the soul … and the career. Ten years ago, my old job moved me from New York City to San Francisco. A moment of panic, insecurity and major fear led to the best changes of my life. It brought me to WCG, enabled my husband and me to forge a new chapter in our life together and, most recently, led me to the joys of suburban homeownership.
  4. Surprise Yourself: No one quite knows what they are capable of until they plunge into the unknown. In my personal life (marrying someone unexpected, uprooting my New York life, cycling through the devastating loss of my parents) and in my professional life (joining a start-up, leading a ridiculously fast-paced company through growth and change, shifting roles along the way), it’s all been a journey of self-discovery and surprise. If you don’t dip your toe in the water – whatever it is – you’ll never have the chance to experience what’s possible.

Since my major headstand accomplishment, and the realization that I’ll only get better and better as I release my fear, it’s been remarkable to see how much of my life fits that wonderful upside-down lens.

What’s your headstand lens?