Portfolio careers and the Alexander Technique

by Barrie Hopson on June 6, 2011 · 0 comments

in portfolio careers,Well being

DSC_0085Yes you have read that correctly!  As you know we encourage guest bloggers and this is a first from Nikki Wilson who also started off quite a long running discussion on Linkedin on how to get a portfolio career started. Nikki has come up with some interesting observations on the relationship between these two seemingly different disciplines.

“It goes without saying that, while a Portfolio Careerist is likely to have more blurred working life boundaries than someone in a more traditional career pattern, some “me time” is still essential. I’ve recently taken up the “Alexander Technique”  (AT), and realised that I could actually draw a number of parallels between AT and a Portfolio Career itself.  I also suspect that there are many Alexander Technique teachers who are themselves Portfolio Careerists.

First of all, a “health warning”!  Not only am I taking my first baby steps toward establishing a Portfolio Career, but more importantly, I’ve only had 7 Alexander Technique lessons so far and it’s a practice that my teacher says one can never stop learning.

In a nutshell AT works on “re-establishing the natural relationship between the head, the neck and the back”.  I first tried it as I’ve seen firsthand, though luckily never experienced, the impact that chronic back problems can have and knew AT was considered a good way to both relieve back pain and prevent it in the future.  However, there is clearly more to it than that.  It is founded on the idea of releasing unnecessary tension in the muscles and effectively undoing the bad habits that have led most of our bodies to be pulled out of their natural line – effectively relearning the bearing we were all born with.    What’s struck me more than anything is how relaxing I find it.  It’s very difficult to release tension in the muscles without also doing so in the mind, and takes such a degree of focus that it’s an hour when I can stop thinking about the stresses of my job.  So, a clear benefit for anyone with a busy working life, and particularly one with lots of balls in the air.

And what about those other parallels I mentioned at the start?

Well, the first was an analogy my teacher used in my last session to explain that AT is not about pure relaxation but releasing unnecessary muscular tension – my head was still to be in control of my body, like a conductor thinking through and “conducting” the various parts of the orchestra.  Rather like running the many parts of a portfolio, maintaining overall control but focusing on each section individually at certain times.

Secondly, one of the key phrases that sticks in mind is “say no”, which my teacher uses to get me to think first about my movements before I make them – don’t use my old learned habits instead.  I’m sure there are many portfolio careerists out there who end up taking on more than is perhaps manageable because they want to ensure their portfolio is sufficiently full.  I could imagine a great temptation to say “yes” to everything but of course sometimes saying no is the best way to manage.

Thirdly, another key instruction is “think up”.   In AT this is in physical alignment terms but I think this corresponds well to the positive spirit with which many of those Portfolio Careerists I’ve encountered pursue their work.

Finally, AT is fundamentally about challenging one’s learnt and habituated way of doing things – challenging one’s own status quo.  What better analogy for someone thinking about or just embarking on a Portfolio Career?”

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