Leaves show us the beauty of letting go…
…but letting go isn’t always easy. This academic year I decided to let go of striving for very-near-perfection (because I know perfection does not exist) by engaging with the 70% rule of Tai Chi and Qigong. Longwater Tai Chi explains how the taoist approach to living and learning is all about moderation; not giving 100% all the time as this leads to burnout (been there, done that, got the t-shirt, mug, tote bag, nearly all the merch and do not want to go back there again thank you very much) or as taoists call it, “practising towards death”!
The simple idea behind this 70% rule is that if you only give 70% of what you are capable of, it is easier to learn and absorb information and because you are not pushing yourself hell for leather (apologies if that triggered any vegans! ;op), you are not persisting and resisting and thus with reduced internal resistance it follows that you can sustain effort and energy for longer and call on it when you actually need to. In theory, by following the 70% rule you consequently increase your capacity without the counterproductive stress. Ta-da!
Sounds great. Perhaps this should be part of the curriculum on induction week and then again slap bang in the middle of the year when you’re eyeball deep in assignments. It would be a gentle reminder (ooh it makes me laugh when people write that in emails. You know it’s not a gentle reminder at all but “the act of pretending to be courteous in reminding someone that they didn’t do what you told them to do when in fact you are being extremely condescending ” so says the Urban dictionary.
So, how is this going for me, who used to think giving 110% effort is still not good enough and who pretty much studied for as long as her eyelids would stay open to avoid that oppressive, lurking feeling of guilt when my time was not spent studying? Hmmmmmm…we are getting there. Let’s just say I have some 70% moments, but I would still like more. I am aware my old habitual ways are not ideal and have therefore taken steps to prioritise other areas of my life. I make sure I squish in more exercise and fresh air before I sit down to study. As I do yoga, pilates or tai chi before class, I arrive blissed out which apparently helps with absorbing information. But, I still find myself trying to get ahead of the game, looking to future weeks on moodle to get started on readings or essays before launch date. Then I have to reel myself back in. But it does ,or doesn’t, take 21 days to form a habit, depending on what research you read. So, I am still learning. I set myself goals* that challenge myself to give only 70%, which for someone like me can be a serious challenge. I try to drown out any negative self-talk with distractions and fun stuff so I don’t start accusing myself of being lazy and complacent. So far I am still achieving without the stress and enjoying my modules more. But, it is my intention to complete this academic year healthier and happier than when I started.
The model for setting goals I like to use (because of its simplicity and easy to remember acronym) is G.R.O.W:
G – GOAL
R – REALITY OF THE SITUATION
0 – OPTIONS AVAILABLE
W – WAY FORWARD
How do you want to GROW this year?