by Achim Nowak

Will You Please Just RELAX?

June 22, 2024

Just relax.

How often have you muttered those words to yourself as you feel stressed, under pressure, tense and gnarled in your body, or worse yet, don’t feel like you’re in your body at all?

Just relax. If only it were that easy.

Before I begin a coaching engagement with a client, I invariably have two key conversations. One with the individual I am about to coach, another with that individual’s boss. These are the conversations where we articulate the goals for the coaching journey. I had one such conversation last week. Arturo is a boss, and our chat was reminiscent of similar conversations I’ve had. We spoke of Stephanie, the individual I am about to support. After praising the many things Stephanie does well, Arturo recounted some of the scenarios where he felt Stephanie’s behavior had gotten her into trouble. Then, after a bit of a pause, Arturo ended with this statement: I think I just want her to relax.

You cannot always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer

I ponder Arturo’s words as I sit in my car that evening, driving to Miami, tuning my radio to NPR. A certain radio program host is on. I have always enjoyed this host’s keen mind and rich, sonorous voice. And I have always been a little distracted by his slight over-articulation of words. Clipped. Arch. Trying a little too hard. This evening, the archness in the voice is gone. My host sounds less announcer-ey, more conversational.

He has learned to relax, I think to myself.

It often is such a fine line, isn’t it, between relaxed and not? I don’t wish to review basics like taking a breath, meditating, slowing down with you here. Practicing mindfulness.

Yes, DO those things.

Here, however, are some additional behaviors you may wish to consider when the stakes are high, time is tight, you have an agenda and want to get stuff done. When a relaxed way of showing up seems to fly out the window.

Stop forcing.

Notice when you’re pressing just a little too hard for an outcome, for consensus, a resolution. When it is not happening in your ideal time-frame. Notice when others may need a different pace, additional time to reflect, or a pause. Reality is not matching your ideal-outcome storyline. Notice how you’re suddenly driving conversations with an irritated edge, an annoyed tone, a slight petulance. Just a little too hard.

Notice, and pull back.

Muscle-memorize your most relaxed self.

Muscle memory is a powerful thing. Athletes know. Even on a day when our mind may not feel as sharp as we’d like, our body performs. It remembers. Muscle memory kicks in. So, go and begin to remember what your body feels like when you’re at your most relaxed. For me, that’s when I step out of the pool after I have just had a robust lap-swim, when I lounge on my daybed and read, sit on the stool at my kitchen counter and conduct business from there. My job is to show up that relaxed, as often and whenever I can.

Remember, and drop into that state.

Allow for silence.

Some folks go quiet when they’re not relaxed. Most folks go hyper. They talk more. Talk faster. Their talk is likely to become repetitive. It becomes noise. Allow for silence. Don’t fill every second with chatter. In the silence new wisdom appears. In the silence we better observe what’s really going on. In the silence we hear, and reconnect with, our heartbeat – and the energy that emanates from our hearts.

Shut up for a moment, and settle into silence.

Make it about them.

An I, I, I storyline undercuts relaxation faster than anything else. I have to get this done right. I need to finish these 5 items before 3 o’clock. I know more about these matters than the rest of the team. I would rather work on something else. I, I, I. Me, me, me. Whenever possible, direct your attention to the person or persons in front of you, what they are saying, what they may need, and how you can be of service. Shift your focus from you to them. Every moment instantly gets simpler. Suddenly, we’re engaged with what is actually real, in front of us, in this moment, not our random storylines. Exhale.

Focus on others, and feel your body unwind.

Have faith. 

It is difficult to relax when I believe that every outcome is dependent on my behavior, my actions, my efforts. Whew, what pressure. I don’t advocate for a fatalistic mindset, mind you. I believe in my ability to affect outcomes. I equally believe that if something doesn’t work out just as I wished, that outcome is the outcome that was meant to happen, in that moment. The one that will lead us to the next right outcome. That sort of faith allows me to relax.

This, of course, is the paradox: When I relax, I am able to more potently affect the outcomes I envision and desire. Go figure.

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