I don’t know where I first heard the Gandhi quote, “Action expresses priorities,” but I scribbled it on the cover of a well-worn Moleskin notebook in big block letters, not wanting to forget it. I can remember how I felt when I first heard it. My first reaction was, “HELL. YES. That is AWESOME,” and I am sure I would have wanted to hashtag #truth if hashtags were a thing back then. And then I remember my emotions shifting a bit and I almost felt a little sense of embarrassment, because as noble as the quote appears, it’s also a gigantic call out. I realized in that moment something that has become a real life mission for me over the past few years – to understand the reality that every single thing we do in our lives has an impact on other people. And I really mean everything.
Take an ordinary day – the first thing you do is…
You wake up.
Well, when you wake up shows what is most important to you in that moment: if you get up to workout at 5am, it suggests a few things: maybe you are an early riser and like to get moving before dawn (that’s a priority). Or, you work during the day and for whatever reason, perhaps you go to your kids’ sporting events at night or you make dinner for your family at night, or maybe just want to veg out in front of your TV at night (all priorities) and you don’t want to work out after work. It also suggests that you are a structured, disciplined person, because most everyone will agree that getting up to exercise when it’s still dark takes a fair amount of will and dedication, and that you have a schedule you like to stick to (that’s a priority.)
People notice what you do and when you do it, whether you realize it or not. They are affected by when you wake up. The people in your house are affected because you when you wake up that early, your kids may need their breakfast made, your spouse’s sleep may be disrupted (or they may be inspired to get up with you!) The people at the gym or the yoga studio start to look forward to you being there and motivating them not to miss.
How you wake up shows what’s important to you in that moment: do you immediately hit snooze and sleep longer, potentially making yourself late for work or school (whatever it is, either sleep or the thing that’s happening that morning is your priority). Do you get out of bed even before the alarm goes off, immediately beginning your daily routine of tasks in their exact order, finding comfort in the routine and getting to your destination early or at least on time? That routine of yours? It’s a priority.
And people notice. They notice if you are grouchy, they notice if you are overly energetic, they notice if you have a scowl on your face and feel like they should make a wide circle, they notice if you are calm and welcoming and want to be around you more. They notice your interest, they notice your preoccupation. They notice your genuineness, they notice your sarcasm. They notice your inclusion, they notice your exclusion. They notice your leadership, and they notice your comparison. The action of how you are showing up, in any environment, whether it’s 5am or noon or 5pm, has an effect on others.
And why do we know that whatever you are doing in any moment is the very most important priority in your life? Simple. Because you are doing it.
It’s funny how small our worlds can really be when we don’t have a sense that all of our actions directly influence the people around us. So often, we really truly do act as if we are the center of the universe, and everything is just in our way. (I love you, David Foster Wallace.)
Now I’m not going to timeline your whole day and naively attempt to psychoanalyze your every move, I’m really just wanting to bring to light that all of our idiosyncrasies don’t go unnoticed. And if we know this and commit to not pretending it doesn’t really happen, we might function differently, perhaps in a much more selfless way. It will be a practice, changing our point of view literally on a momentary basis from “me” to “us” – and it will be a game changer.
Like a global game changer.
I opened Indigo Yoga in Fort Worth, Texas in May of 2006. In ten years I have learned a lot of things, and so when we made the decision to move and build a new facility this spring, I put pen to paper and wrote a “brand statement” around what has been and what will be. Here is an excerpt of our Ten Year Brand.
To us, simplicity and style equate to to a clean, crisp, modern, white on white studio. The design, the interior and all of the furnishings will symbolically represent a blank slate, so to speak, on which each student and teacher has the power to create their lives and futures. Our idea of how things should be will never be imposed upon those who enter; we want them to feel as though anything is possible in our studios, and we are giving them the platform to achieve their highest potential and expression of self. Yogically speaking, light colors represent “sattva,” the highest and purest Universal energy.
People feel inspired when they are surrounded by beauty. They feel even more inspired when that beauty is not intimidating or something they feel they must live up to; so in addition to the clean, crisp “blank slate,” interior design, soft touches will create a distinct element of comfort in all areas of the studio.
We pride ourselves on quality teaching, quality programming and a quality facility. Quality, to us, is defined by experience and history, reliability and consistency, an insatiable quest for knowledge and truth, a brave and fearless ability to take risks, and a gracious acceptance of what already is and has been. And when that is a part of who you are, what exudes is confidence. The facility itself, in all materials, furnishings and amenities, will exude confidence, because we believe that what we do, in every moment of every day, has an impact on others. Every action we take shows others what is most important to us. Building this facility and planning for the future shows the people of Fort Worth and beyond that as we all walk this path together, their personal development, their wellness and ultimately their happiness are important and valued to us.
That is why I have chosen the following quote as our “Ten Year Brand”:
“ACTION EXPRESSES PRIORITIES.” ~ Gandhi
Three words. Three impactful words.
Whenever I lecture on this quote in trainings locally and abroad, the intention is to show students that every last little thing we do has an effect on others.
WHAT WE DO SHOWS OTHERS WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR LIVES.
It’s a call-out. It’s a check-in. It’s truth. It shows others who we care about, and who we don’t. It keeps us honest. It is a mirror, making us watch ourselves with our children, our lovers, our co-workers, our friends. Whether we are spending quality time with someone who needs us, or being mindful about what we eat to nourish, or taking time to practice yoga to get our heads clear and bodies strong, what we do shows the world what we care about.
And we want people to believe that the ACTION of YOGA, which makes us stronger, calmer, more responsive and less reactive EXPRESSES the PRIORITY that we know we have an impact, and who we are for others and a bigger vision is of utmost importance.
I believe in this statement so much that I had it enormously painted on the exterior wall of our new facility. I believe that if we remind ourselves of it daily – hourly – momentarily – we have the ability to change our realities and the realities of those around us, simply by coming back to what’s real and out of our heads.
There is a scene in the movie, “As Good As It Gets” where Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin Udall, busts into his psychiatrist’s office without warning in an emotional crisis. As he’s leaving, he stops in the middle of the waiting room (which is completely filled with patients) and says, “What if this is as good as it gets…”
I argue it’s not. But only if we wake up and take action in our lives and show each other what is truly most important.
Onward, fearless ones.