In his chapter Evolution of a Technique, FM Alexander gave us a simple set of instructions for how to develop a new plan for activity that we can use to replace our usual habitual way of going about things. In this final instalment of a 4 part blog series, I want to examine another of the steps to positive change that form Alexander’s method of reasoning our way to a better use of ourselves. Today, I’m going to show you how to reason your way out of trouble and into a better use of yourself.
Here is the section of Evolution of a Technique that we are going to cover over the next few weeks:
In the work that followed I came to see that to get a direction of my use which would ensure this satisfactory reaction, I must cease to rely upon the feeling associated with my instinctive direction, and in its place employ my reasoning processes, in order
(1) to analyse the conditions of use present;
(2) to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about;
(3) to project consciously the directions required for putting these means into effect.
Put the plan into action.
Obviously, if one has spent all that time and attention creating a decent plan, one is going to use it! But there are some points I want to make about how to do so most effectively.
Do just the plan – no extras at the last minute
I’ll talk more about the technical aspects of making sure that you actually do what you intended in future posts. For now, though, it is enough to remember just how tempting it is to go ‘off piste’.
I have a very clear memory of being in the debating club at school, and being picked for an important competition at another school. I carefully planned my speech in the debate, and wrote it out on little cards. When I stood up to speak, I recall midway through I looked down at my notes, and decided the sentence I was about to say was poorly constructed, and decided to alter it on the fly. Unfortunately, I incorporated part of the next point I was going to make; I stumbled and ran to a stop as I tried to recover my thread of argument. My desire to improvise had not been a great thing to indulge!
Complete commitment, total detachment
‘Complete commitment, total detachment’ is a phrase I’ve shared on the blog before, and one I frequently use with my students. It’s a shorthand for the following:
- Complete commitment to the process
- Total detachment from the outcome
We covered complete commitment to the process earlier – don’t be tempted to go ‘off piste’. But what about total detachment from the outcome? What does that mean?
Elsewhere in The Use of the Self Alexander comments that the average person (that’s probably you and me!) is accustomed to “work directly for [their] ends on the ‘trial and error’ plan without giving due consideration to the means whereby those ends should be gained.” It’s as if we are so fixated on the goal we want to achieve that we don’t pay attention to the way we get there. But if we don’t pay attention to the process, anything could happen – and probably will. If we want to achieve our goals efficiently and sustainably, paying attention to the process is not just desirable, but essential. And if we have worked hard on creating a plan that achieves our goals, then we no longer even need to think about the goal; if we just put our plan into action, then achieving the goal is inevitable anyway!
Don’t evaluate as you gO!
When you put your plan into action, it’s tempting to try and check your progress mid-process. Don’t – it’s a trap! If you are carrying out a new plan that is contrary to your usual way of going about things, you will want to give your new plan your full attention. You will need to stay with present moment concerns.
As soon as you begin to evaluate your progress, you are placing your attention on the outcome of the process; you are looking at outputs. This is quite simply different to paying attention to the process as it happens. And if, as we discussed in the last point, success is inevitable anyway, why bother evaluating? There will be time enough for that once you’re done!
I hope that this short series on Alexander’s concept of planning has been useful, and that you have a bit more knowledge about how to go about it more efficiently and with a better chance of success. Learning to take your goals seriously, to analyse, make a detailed and realistic plan and then faithfully put the plan into action isn’t all of the Alexander Technique, but it’s a key component, and it makes life a lot simpler.
Have fun with your planning!
 Alexander, F.M., The Use of the Self, London, Orion, 1985, p.39.
 ibid., p.57.
[3 Alexander, F.M., Universal Constant in Living, NY IRDEAT 1997, p.587.
Image of statue of Shirley Strickland by By Melburnian – Self-photographed, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1259804