In early 1985, I had the cleaning and gardening contract at the Boyne Island Shopping Centre in Queensland, Australia. I was 18.
Early one evening, I was watching the local news and lifting buckets of bricks to build my body. I’m always going on these self-help kicks. I thought this weight lifting would give me a more impressive look and help me to get a girlfriend.
It didn’t work.
This woman came in who I didn’t like much. She took one look at me straining to lift the bricks during the latter end of my set and she said, “You’re only making your posture worse.”
I ignored her. I probably just grunted. But I never forgot her words. I didn’t understand them fully but I feared that she was on to something. I was working hard to improve myself and I didn’t want to consider that I might be doing myself more harm than good. I couldn’t face that.
Then in 2008, I began taking Alexander Technique lessons and came to understand the destructiveness of work-outs that ingrain bad habits of needless compression and tension.
This woman was a dancer and probably had some good ideas about ease of use that would’ve been of great benefit to me but I couldn’t listen to her. At age 42, however, I am able to recognize that she was right.
Not all efforts to improve one improve one. Many, perhaps most, of my efforts to improve myself have done me more harm than good.
Sometimes, how you do something is more important than what you do. If your workout only deepens destructive habits, you might be better off without that effort.
Sometimes, don’t just do something, have a nice comfy lie down and think about things. Think about where you have gone wrong. Think about where you want to improve. Run through your plans in your head and see whether you are going in the right direction.
Until I started taking Alexander lessons in 2008, I had terrible posture. At costume parties where my face was covered, people could tell it was me by my bad posture. From blocks away, people could recognize my weird walk. All my striving to improve myself had ended up deforming myself.