Forward Momentum – using peripheral vision

Learning from nature

As I rock hopped along a river bank, looking for a short cut across to the hill on the far side, I was reminded of how hard I find it to trust my footing on uneven rocks, and how that tends to make me look at my feet, and move very gingerly, taking time to test my footing on each rock.

While that sounds a sensible approach, in practice, it doesn’t work very well! One of the most helpful aspects of moving across uneven and potentially wobbly surfaces, is forward motion. That forward motion counteracts the potential for overbalancing when stepping on a rock which is either slippery or insecure. However, it takes some courage to commit to that forward motion, and more importantly, takes the use of our peripheral vision.

Walter Carrington, a pupil of FM Alexander, and famous teacher of the Alexander Technique, used to say that where the eyes lead, the body follows. When the eyes fix and focus on a single object, the body tends to tense, and if that object is on the ground, the body tends to lose any upward or forward energy. It follows then, that if the ground proves insecure, the body is not well placed to deal with the vitally necessary adjustments.

With the use of peripheral vision, which takes in the broader landscape, the body remains flexible, upright, and alert, and well placed for dealing with unexpected crises. I often do an interesting experiment with clients regarding the use of peripheral vision. I stand behind them as close as possible with my arms out to the front on either side of their head. Asking them to look ahead, and not move their eyes, I slowly move my hands apart, asking them to let me know when they can no longer see my hands. Usually my hands are almost 180 degrees to their head before they are unable to see them! That means, that without moving our eyes AT ALL, we have the facility to see everything in the hemisphere in front of us! How many of us actually use that facility?

Applying it to rock hopping, or to walking in general, I find it fascinating that most people walking on uneven ground watch the ground immediately in front of their feet. I would invite you to experiment with walking looking ahead of you, and consciously engaging peripheral vision, this time in the vertical plane, so that you are allowing your eyes to take in what’s ahead, but also everywhere from your feet forward. The brain is easily able to process all this information, and I think you may be pleasantly surprised at how easily you are able to navigate difficult terrain, and to make any adjustments necessary to compensate for loose rocks and uneven ground!

I have memories of my time in Africa when a boyfriend and I had gone on his off-road motorbike up into the hills and had encountered basically a road of boulders. I was terrified, clinging onto him, and making him inch forward at snail’s pace. Eventually he lost control of the bike, being unable to hold its weight at such a slow pace, and we came a cropper (fortunately not serious!). Being very bright, he proceeded to explain to me the physics of why I really needed to let him get some speed, and reluctantly I agreed. Suffice to say we completed the rest of the journey without mishap!

From the coaching perspective, it is also useful to remember to keep looking ahead, while taking in your surroundings, and not to get bogged down in difficult circumstances. It is important to remain flexible, both in mind and body, and to realise that although something can seem frightening and unsafe, that moving forward with care and flexibility can get us through times and situations that at first sight can seem  insurmountable.

 

This Business of Coaching

In the film ‘You’ve got Mail’, the character Joe Fox of Fox Books goes to visit Kathleen Kelly of the Independent Book Store ‘The Shop Around the Corner’, to tell her that forcing her to close her store was ‘not Personal, it was Business’.  Her reply ran something along these lines:  ‘What do you mean it was not personal? It was personal to me. And whatever anything else is, it ought to BEGIN by being personal.’

The World of Business likes to think of itself as being very Left Brain focussed – analytical, detailed. However, recent Neuroscience suggests that our world is focussing too much on the Left Brain, and ignoring the Right Brain at its peril – losing the bigger picture, creativity and spontaneity. It also suggests that rather than decision making being a critical, analytical process, our decisions are most often driven by emotion, thereby giving some explanation as to why a judge listening to a difficult case, is far more likely to return a positive verdict after lunch, when his hunger is satisfied, than he is before lunch when his hunger is dictating how his brain is focussed.

While many companies claim to award contracts on the basis of variables such as pricing and skill sets, the truth may often be that they felt more comfortable and relaxed with one set of providers than another, even if, on paper, their bid was less palatable than some of those rejected.

In the Business of Coaching, various labels are now bandied about, such as ‘Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Performance Coaching’. I would argue that these are merely labels, and that the principles of coaching remain the same whether dealing with a High Flying Business Executive who is dealing with multi-faceted business issues, or a mother who wants to know how to motivate her children to help clean the house!

Every Business Executive is as much a person as is a mother who has chosen to stay at home to support her children, or student who is dealing with the challenges of moving from home to University, or office worker who doesn’t know how to deal with a co-worker whom he finds irritating.

A business decision made by an Executive who feels threatened or under pressure, could be very different from made by that same person if he/she was feeling confident and supported – both in home life and business. This fact underlines the value of coaching, be it labelled ‘Executive’, ‘Performance’, ‘Business’ or simply ‘Coaching’.

The process of coaching seeks to assist the client or coachee, to be able to work through issues and ‘problems’ (or opportunities, if you are feeling positive and optimistic), to be able to operate from a place of quiet self assurance and confidence,which enables him/her to make decisions that will be most appropriate and useful for him/herself, rather than making decisions that will make him/her feel safe and better about him/herself, but ones which perhaps do not benefit the business that he/she is in.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, notes that really good leaders often have a lower IQ than their team, but score highly on EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence are:*

  • Self Awareness:  the ability to realistically ‘see’ ourselves and  be aware of our goals, beliefs, values, drivers, ‘rules’ (our ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’) and our self-talk (both positive and negative)
  • Self-regulation:  trustworthiness, integrity, confidence, walks the talk
  • Motivation:  self and others, optimistic, inspirational, passionate
  • Empathy: awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns
  • Social Skills: strong listening and & communication skills, manages conflict, centred, trusts others and ‘open’.

* copyright: D.Barnard, www.relationaldynamics1st.co.uk

Businesses are beginning to recognise the value of a Coaching style of leadership, which usually reflects high emotional intelligence.  Coaching assists in the development of Emotional Intelligence, as defined above and can enable Executives to manage more effectively, and Managers to develop more efficient, empowered and happier teams.

This of course, does no harm to the bottom line!

 

 

Enhancing Performance and Health