yin yangThe other day I was reading the hobbies of several C-level executives. And once again I found the usual suspects: cooking, history, art, classical music, old-timers, wine, golf, walking in the mountains … I’ve always wondered, do they do this because it is just part of the social class they belong to (cf. Bourdieu)? Or do they really enjoy it?  And why have these hobbies never changed over the last decades, centuries?

I’ve tried some of them in the past, and it just didn’t do anything for me. Even the opposite, I got utterly frustrated from cooking, restless from classical music, couldn’t be bothered about the finesse of different wines (they all tasted good), got bored looking at old cars. Until I recently hit a physical wall. The combination of a lack of sleep (being a young father with a light sleeping daughter), fast-food, 60 hour weeks, and 4 days of holiday a year suddenly stopped me in my tracks.

The event got me interested in thinking about what brings me to rest? I’ve tried mindfulness in the past and it didn’t work for me the moment I got home. I felt like a fool doing these exercises, and got impatient. I never understood why, because in group they seemed to work. Until somebody explained it using the Chines yin-yang philosophy.

If you have too much yang energy (active, aggressive, male energy, a lot of impetuosity) which I have, and with me a lot of executives, it doesn’t make sense to suddenly try to do activities that are far on the yin-continuum. Like sitting still on a chair focusing on your breathing. It is like driving 160 on the high-way, and hiding the breaks at full speed. This just creates heat, frustration, is unpleasant. It makes more sense to get to rest (yin) by e.g. movement (yang) in activities that have a lot of yin-energy (female, passive energy): walking in the forest (Steve Jobs was famous to have long walks in the forest surrounding Silicon Valley), playing golf, cooking & tasting wine (delicate flavors and aromas), walking in museum (aesthetics), driving old-timers (aesthetics). Hence, all these typical hobbies c-level people with 24/7 jobs have for decades if not centuries.

As my body suddenly forced me rest, it restored to equilibrium after a period of too much yang. From nature I’ve a lot of yang in me. It leads to great things, but to keep it sustainable I’m learning to balance it with yin-activities. As I’m still recovering from the energy disorder and therefore not too far on the yang dimension, I’m able to enjoy cooking, walking and classical music for the first time in my live. And I’ve to say I feel more balanced than ever. A key state of being for every leader that wants to create change.

Any comments?


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