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June 27, 2003

"Choice of attention -- to pay attention to this and ignore that -- is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer.  In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be."
--  W.H. Auden, A Certain World
In karate, there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness:  "mind like water."  Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond.  How does the water respond?  The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm.  It doesn't overreact or under react. 

The power in a karate punch comes from speed, not muscle; it comes from a focused "pop" at the end of the whip.  That's why petite people can learn to break boards and bricks with their hands: it doesn't take calluses or brute strength, just the ability to generate a focused thrust with speed.  But a tense muscle is a slow one. So the high levels of training in the martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation as much as anything else.  Clearing the mind and being flexible are key. 

Anything that causes you to overreact or under react can control you, and often does.  Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you'd like.  Most people give either more or lessattention to things than they deserve, simply because they don't operate with a "mind like water."  (Allen, 2001, pp. 10-11) 

Reference:  Allen, D. (2001).  Getting things done:  the art of stress-free productivity.  New York:  Penguin Putnam, Inc.
Provided by Beth Flynn of Ohio State University Leadership Center who can be reached at
1.     Do you operate with a "mind like water?"

2.     This week look at your responses to situations -- are you overreacting or under reacting? 

3.     What will you do to move toward "mind like water?" (meditate, breathe, exercise, walk in nature)

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