Welcome to a new decade and my first article in a monthly series, Off the Mat: Yoga Mantras for the Modern Career.
WHY I AM WRITING THIS SERIES
When I work with clients, I often incorporate wisdom accessed from my yoga training – I became a certified yoga teacher in 2012 – and ongoing practice.
I am not always explicit about yoga as the source of such wisdom, however, because not everyone finds yoga accessible or personally meaningful to their own lives.
Through this new series, I am creating a space in which I can support clients and readers – among those who are interested in and receptive to furthering their yoga wisdom – by providing a means to translate yoga principles to their careers.
Essentially, in this series I bring yoga to the foreground. Yet these aren’t yoga lessons in the traditional sense. I won’t teach half moon pose, alternate nostril breathing or how to flip your dog. In Yoga Mantras for the Modern Career, we are explicitly taking our yoga off the mat.
How can a (new or existing) yoga practice enlighten your career? How can you integrate what you learn on the mat into your personal or professional life?
This series is my gift to you. In the spirit of yoga, take what serves you and leave the rest.
There are traditional yoga mantras straight from the Upanishads, such as Lokah samastah sukinoh bhavantu (translation: may all beings everywhere be happy and free), and more contemporary mantras based on yoga principles.
In Yoga Mantras for the Modern Career, I am building on the idea that every action in our lives can be a meditation and every instruction in a yoga class, however small, can become a mantra.
More specifically, since this site is about leadership, professional development and related areas, the mantras in this series will be in support of your life and career.
THIS MONTH’S YOGA MANTRA:
SETTING AN INTENTION
This month’s mantra is fitting for the New Year and often incorporated into yoga classes during the first few days of the year (and other times): set an intention.
When we set an intention in yoga practice, we do it in present tense, such as:
I live in the present moment.
The goal is not simply to have your intention on the mat (while practicing yoga) but to take it with you as you move off the mat (into the rest of your life). In the context of your personal and professional life, you might set another intention that serves you:
I have a great career.
I speak fluent Spanish.
I live in New York City.
An intention is stated in present tense, even if it is not your current state. By wording it in the present, you can see yourself as if you have already achieved – and thereby activate the power of – your intention.
Once articulated, your vision is transformed into action through:
- continuing to bring your awareness back to the intention,
- maintaining a commitment to the intention (for yogis, this is the tapas or fiery discipline of the Niyamas),
- holding a confident belief you can achieve it, and
- taking active steps to realize your intention.
When clients come to me seeking a career change, promotion or new job, for example, we work (explicitly or implicitly) on some or all aspects of the above.
First, I help them clarify, articulate and prioritize their intention.
On a very granular level, what does it mean to you to have a great career? (This is a version of the classic coaching question, “What does success look like for you?”)
What is working in your professional life, what needs to change and what specifically would that change look like?
What are the obvious and not so obvious things that would need to shift?
What would you be doing on a day-to-day level (which type of projects, what type of team or individual work, what working environment, how much oversight, etc.)?
The more you can clarify your intention, the more effectively you can keep it on the front burner and take concrete steps to realize it. You may also find that a more specific career or other intention will not only enable a richer and more robust visualization but also increase your ability to keep your awareness on the intention rather than giving way to the inevitable distractions that each moment presents.
Second, we work on increasing their confidence.
You may have confidence across many aspects of your life, but to achieve your intention you need to have the confidence that you can actually bring it to fruition and maintain that confidence through the process of creating the reality your intention represents.
Third, we devise active, effective steps to realize their intention.
This third aspect works in tandem with the second one, as your confidence will increase as you outline and begin to take active steps to put your intention into action. This may include, for example, moving out of your comfort zone, acquiring new skills or meeting people who can help you realize your goal.
Since the steps to creating a great career may be very specific to your individual case, let’s take a look at the implementation plan for a more universal intention, like foreign language acquisition. If your intention is to be fluent in Spanish, you may decide to take some or all of the following steps:
- launch a weekly “Spanish table” lunch group or other gatherings among friends or colleagues,
- find and listen to Spanish-language podcasts or songs during your morning commute,
- engage in community service that exposes you to native Spanish speakers,
- make a list of and watch top or classic movies or TV shows in Spanish (with or without English subtitles), from an Almodovar classic to Roma or even Jane the Virgin (which is partially in Spanish),
- hire (or barter English lessons with) a Spanish tutor,
- get and use magnets and/or flashcards with words and pictures in Spanish,
- keep a diary in Spanish,
- read books or magazines in Spanish,
- do yoga in Spanish (hint: you can get your perro hacia abajo (down dog) going with a plethora of YouTube videos for every range of fitness level and special interest), and/or
- prepare for and take one or more trips to Spain or Latin America during the year.
The overarching theme is to come at the same intention from a variety of perspectives – in this case, to create an immersion in the Spanish language – which is the same advice I would give for your career or any other aspect of your life.
Remember that part of the wisdom of putting your intention in the present tense is to recognize that you may not need to start from scratch or make a 180-degree turn to realize your goal. If your intention is to have a great career, you may start with recognizing what is already “great” about the current state of your professional life. Do you hold a leadership role? Have a great team? Relish the intellectual challenge? Make a lasting contribution to a cause you support?
If your intention is to be fluent in Spanish, build on what you already do and cherish in your life. So if you are an avid cook, you can start to follow recipes from cookbooks written in Spanish or talk yourself through the steps of your cooking in Spanish and explore any words you are missing. For example, in the phrase “ahora, voy a poner el agua a hervir….” if you don’t know the word for boil (hervir) or always forget that water (agua) uses the article “el” rather than “la,” you can remember both in the context of the sentence.
Although I spend a lot of time above giving examples of steps to illustrate the importance of putting your intention into action, the execution process is not more important than the setting of the intention in the first place. (It simply has more steps, as an intention by its nature is short and sweet.)
You can have the best implementation plan in the world, but if you don’t keep your intention alive and continue to bring your awareness back to it, outlining the steps will get you nowhere. We will meet here again month after month, New Year after New Year, and you will ask me why you have not (sufficiently) progressed. I am certain that is not what you seek!
Instead, post your intention at the top of your mat or on your bathroom mirror – literally, with a sticker or sticky note – and return to it every day.
MY OWN INTENTION FOR 2020
My own intention for the New Year is the first one written above:
I live in the present moment.
Yesterday, on January 1, I took my dog (Carter) to Compo Beach for the first time. It was windy and cold but lovely nonetheless. Carter was ecstatic, and I had lot of fun keeping pace as he raced and frolicked across the beach.
Today is a new day and another chance to reset or refine my intention.
Happy New Year! What’s your intention?
Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. In addition to her career coach and resume writer certifications, she is a certified yoga teacher.
Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development.
Second and third images above copyright 2020 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.