Would you like to save energy?

The idea of giving everything 110% can be seen as a virtue. I recently read a novel where a character boasted “I always gave everything 50%.” It made me laugh. It sounded appealing and less exhausting. However as I thought about it I realised it was no better than the 110% approach. Why? Because both are a form of prejudgment. Neither are considering the task itself. 

Back in 1918* F.M. Alexander described what happens if you ask a man to lift an imitation dumb-bell, one made to look heavy but actually light. He said “he will exert his full power in the effort to do that which he could perform with the greatest ease.” He went onto say that such “unnecessary force” is exerted by “practically every person” in their “ordinary” daily activities.

Many of my Alexander Technique students discover this to be true. One particular student would always choose activities she hated doing as the focus of lessons. We discovered the more she hated them, the more effort she put into them. Ironing was a ‘whole body’ activity and the iron was ‘gripped’ as though it was going to run away.

So how can we stop wasting our energy? Well maybe by taking a different approach entirely. Alexander said:

“If we desire to lift a weight with the least possible waste of energy, we should approach it and grasp it with relaxed muscles, assuming the position of greatest possible mechanical advantage, and then gradually exert our muscular energies until sufficient power is attained to overcome the resistance.”

Imagine if we applied such a process to everything we picked up or held. No more prejudgement about the effort required. No more wasting unnecessary energy. No more ‘white knuckle’ ironing. What activities could you approach differently to save energy? How would you choose to enjoy the energy you saved?

*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance (P63) in The Books of F. Matthias Alexander, IRDEAT, New York.