Centre Ice

I’m a hockey fan.   My favorite team isn’t very good right now, but I cheer for them anyway.  In some ways I cheer for them to lose right now as if they do they will get a better draft choice and they will improve faster.  But my heart always cheers for them to win even though my brain tells me it would be better in the long run if they were to lose every game this season. There is a balance in that.  Just like every hockey game starts at center ice (other sports are the same way).  When I read this I kind of wonder what it would be like if my team always started in the offensive zone … wouldn’t we win a lot more games if that happened?  We certainly don’t want to start in the defensive zone, as there’s a lot of risk to that!

Starting in the middle!
Starting in the middle!

Or would we? If we knew we were going to start in the offensive zone all the time would we show up with our best stuff and try to dominate or would we take our advantage for granted and squander it?  If we always had to work our way out of the defensive zone would we show up defeated or more resolute to persevere?

When we think of the extremes, the choice of where to end up often less obvious than we think.  If we compare two people:

  • One a highly successful business person with all the wealth he/she could ask for, but no time enjoy it with family and friends.
  • A subsistence third world farmer who works all day to ensure his family has food, and then spends his entire evening reveling in their company.

Are we required to choose?

Or do we intuitively steer towards a middle path?

To extend this metaphor further, I often think about the balance in how I show up every day.  When I look back on a period where I wasn’t really on top of my game, I often see that I was swinging through the extremes of highs/lows and goods/bads. In good times, I can honestly claim that things were just good all the time.  Not great, but not ever bad.  But consistent good is so rewarding!

I like to call this state being centered.  When I’m in that state, I’m fully in touch with what is happening in the moment.  I’m very aware of me and what is acting on me, but in that state it is interesting to note that it is much easier to be aware of what is happening for someone else, and by doing so shift our presence to match theirs.

I usually know how to find this state. Some simple exercises or meditations can bring us there, and then a healthy dose of gratitude and perspective can keep us there for long periods of time.  I think of myself as a pendulum, hanging elegantly on a line, perfectly still.  But perfectly still doesn’t really fit with the nature of the world.

If that pendulum is sitting on a table, then someone might bump that table and get it moving a bit.  And then a window gets opened and the breeze catches that motion and amplifies it. Finally the cat wanders by and gives it a swat and it is swinging about wildly, rarely spending a moment close to its centre.

Totally centered.
Totally centered.

Our lives are like that, particularly at work.  We don’t necessarily sense the effects of each force that acts on our pendulum, because the initial forces don’t nudge it out of our comfort zone. But as they start to add up and the arc of the swing lengthens, we sometimes find ourselves wondering how to settle everything down.

How would things be different if we noticed every nudge on our pendulum.  What if we understood that it isn’t good for our pendulum to sit inert, motionless.  What if we understood that a certain swing in our engagement with the world provided us perspective and energy.

But what if we also knew our limits, and knew the trick to slowing the swing of our pendulum down?

To me this is the ultimate leadership capability.  That ability to be totally present at any moment, with all of the people we are working with, but also to be aware of our own degree of “centeredness” and the forces that are acting on it at any time and then manage these things simultaneously.  It’s magic when it happens, but for me I can’t claim that it is easy or even that it happens the majority of the time.

But experiencing that state is enough to know that it is a place to strive to be all the time!

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

10 thoughts on “Centre Ice

  1. You have me thinking about starting at the defensive position. A great training opportunity for players, I think! When I’m centred as you say, I do notice others around me more and care for them more. I don’t know if I would want to be like that all the time – I wonder if I would get bored. I think there’s a part of me that likes to start in the defensive position sometimes; to shake it up, that’s when I feel most alive. Maybe just like hockey, getting the experience in all positions is valuable. I just reread my comment and maybe I’m confusing center with offensive…maybe it’s being in the offensive position too long that would be boring…center IS the place to aim for!
    Diana

    1. Your perspective on the defensive position is interesting. I once had my second son tested by an educational psychologist because I felt he he was not performing at school the way I felt he should be (when a child teaches himself to read by the age of three, a mother knows these things). The results of the test was astounding because it was discovered that he preformed better when challenged. For example he counted backwards much faster than he counted forward. Long story cut short, the work at school was found to be too easy and boring for him and so he was loafing. Then it became a challenge as a parent keeping him stimulated throughout his school years so he would get through!! He now is 32 and is managing to challenge himself quite successfully by holding down full-time work and studying for his now third post-graduate degree at the same time. However, I do not think he will ever find that ‘centre’ as always, at least in his studies, he relates to me his cramming to get assignments and thesis finished ‘just in time’ after wasting several months because he only seems to work at his best when the pressure is on. It is a fascinating and yet at the same time weird trait.

  2. LOL — love Diana’s comment.

    I also love this line — Some simple exercises or meditations can bring us there, and then a healthy dose of gratitude and perspective can keep us there for long periods of time.

    My sense is that when I stand in my “I”, it doesn’t matter how the winds blow and howl or gently whisper all around me, I stand true to my values, principles, dreams and goals. In that place, I am continually moving with the flow of life, adapting, evolving, shifting — as opposed to being at the whim of the forces around me and being forced to move, adapt, evolve, shift….

    Not being much of a team sports gal, I understand the metaphor — I think that part of the challenge is that we look at it as a “game” with winners and losers — and lose sight of the journey with everyone having the capacity to achieve their dreams….

    Now you’ve got me thinking! 🙂

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful reply Louise. For not being a sports gal I think you’re onto something!! This idea of winners and losers is key … when we work with that in mind it is hard to be centered as we are by definition not interested in the greater good, only our own interests.

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