Leadership, Learned from the Gym

Some find enlightenment in a church, temple, or communing with nature.  I find it in the aerobics studio.

It’s not your 1980’s Jazzercise class, but it’s the modern equivalent, zumba.  We shake, we shimmy, we gyrate (I know, TMI), we move side to side, forward and back in unison.

Until we don’t.

There I am again, on the wrong foot, facing the wrong way, going against the flow.  And I think I’m pretty proficient at aerobics, relatively speaking.  After all, I’ve been doing some equivalent thereof for almost my entire life.  I learn the steps quickly, I remember the routines.  I try to count to keep up with the number of repetitions and attend to which foot we should be leading with.  I think I should be able to manage it…

Until I find I am colliding physically or visually with the rest of the class.  Then, my first reaction is, “Oh sh**,” or “Aacck,” or something to that effect.   It feels bad to be out of synch with everyone else.  In the early days I would just assume I was wrong and switch gears.  I have since learned that sometimes it just means we are now all on the wrong foot.  (Note to aerobics-phobes – this can happen when the instructor takes a mini-break or even makes a mistake.)

It struck me that this partnerless dance between me and the class is much like how one navigates one’s life.  If I lack principle or a rudder, then I’ll just make decisions based on the majority flow of the class, going along to get along. I’m not sure where the class is going with our choreography or whether it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t care because I don’t want to make others think I’m disagreeing with them or run the risk of running into them.  After all, they may not like me anymore!  (Never mind that they don’t know me so they can’t like or dislike me).  They may think I’m stupid!  Or, I might tell myself that few things are so important that they require I take a stand, so let someone else decide for me. (Clearly zumba class falls into this category but just bear with me.)

Or I can just go about the choreography as I know it’s supposed to be. I LEARNED the routine, I KNOW the routine, I’m going to DO the routine, regardless of what anyone else is doing.  Here, I am adhering to my principles and firmly fixing my rudder, but I am not flexible enough to make a course adjustment if, God forbid, I turn out to be wrong.  Never mind that I’m unlikely to find myself to be wrong if I don’t even consider the possibility of being wrong.  Instead of worrying that others might think I’m stupid, I might think they are stupid.

Another option is that I stick to the routine as I know it even in the face of dissent, but attend to what else is going on.  What am I missing, did I misunderstand?  What are the cues from the instructor?  Is she frowning, looking pleased?  Retrace my steps and think where I might’ve gone wrong. I don’t let the majority of the class drive my choices per se, but I take note and weigh that into my decision-making process.  I am certainly not going to get upset or feel judged, wrong or right, nor am I going to feel pressured to change course if I believe I’m on the right track.  No one here is stupid.  We’re just doing our best with the resources and skills we have.

OK, so these zumba quandaries are not exactly life- or death-type decisions, but rather a metaphor for how we decide how to navigate our complicated lives.  In the end, I must follow my inner compass.  Regardless of whether I feel awkward, uncomfortable, unpopular, or judged.  Regardless of whether I end up crashing, figuratively or literally.   While doing so, I must also continue to curiously probe the world around me as well as my own assumptions and prejudices, and adjust accordingly.  It’s an intricate dance that includes spins, turns and spills and even sometimes a beautiful synchrony.

See my previous post about enlightenment in the gym – My Age, My Asset.

NOTE:  I’m going on vacation y’all!  So I may not be posting next week, or only reblogging old posts, depending on my internet access and time.

Against the flow; out of step

Against the flow; out of step

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