One or the other
A challenge for many of my students (especially because they tend to be highly driven and self-motivated people) is to be in a state where they can be both goal oriented or competitive, yet simultaneously self-aware.
The problem is that when they focus on the end goal they want to achieve (the finish line of the race - movement - activity - or performance), they forget or ignore themselves (loss of awareness of an embodied self). (*Alexander called this end-gaining: When in an attempt to get your goal, you place all your attention on the end goal without enough attention to optimize your whole coordinated self; thus, negatively impacting your health, function, or thus your ability to achieve your outcome.)
On the flip side of this is that we can (especially in different stages of learning) become so process oriented that we loose track of what we are doing or where we are headed. When students place all their attention on themselves they can loose the drive to move towards their chosen objective and the benefits that arise when growing towards a goal oriented action or outcome.
In other words, when they drive themselves in a competitive achievement oriented way they loose awareness of themselves and the process; but when they focus on themselves and the process they loose the powerful internal drive (and it’s unconscious positive affects) that come with moving towards a goal: It’s one or the other.
But that’s were a key issues lies: The idea that it’s one or the other.
Instead, what if you can train yourself so that it’s not just one or the other, but so both occur simultaneously as one single unified experience.
Towards a unified experience - expanding awareness
If the goal is to bring your fullest self to your task, one way is to build the skill to work with an expanded field of awareness in activity. This means you’re simultaneously aware of your objective/task, and of yourself (not just perfect form or alignment, but a conscious awareness and shaping of your voluntary and unconscious movements and coordination). You are both the actor and the observer simultaneously; aware of and influencing how these processes operate, not as individual parts, but together as a single process that allows for the expression of new movement and a fresh outcome.
This isn’t a static 50/50 split, but a flowing balance between conscious awareness, direction, and internal unconscious motivation. It’s a constant opening up of your awareness such that you can include and cultivate more UP in the process and actions that are required by context of the goal or motivation.
The balance between how much attention you need to place on yourself in activity to cultivate yourself so you are going UP, and how much attention you can include of your end goal is one that shifts throughout the learning process. For example, in the beginning the thought alone of achieving the end goal is so powerful for most students that it immediately starts in motion the whole habitual way of moving and eliminates the opportunity for any new expression of movement/coordination in the action itself. To counteract this the student may need to entirely ignore the idea of their end goal and place attention entirely on the awareness and intention they need to cultivate their fullest coordination.
Later, they gain enough skill to observe what the thought of achieving their end goal brings up in them - and to make choices to inhibit and direct themselves in such a way as to move towards their goal while still cultivating the most UP they can for themselves in the activity. This process often brings on a state of flow and interestingly a much higher level of performance/ achievement towards the end goal. In this case, the student begins to ‘Run their own race’ - aware of and using the motivation from goal attainment, while remaining process oriented and embodied in action.
Doing, or rather cultivating this unified experience that can be learned and developed.
It’s a practice in which you continuously grow a deeper and deeper understanding of how to bring more of your fullest self to the movements, moments, and activities of your life.