“The bad news is that you are falling. The good news is that there is no ground.” That’s a lesson my spiritual teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught.

When I read that quote, I said to myself, “I guess I better learn to fall gracefully. If there’s no ground, falling with fear and struggle is simply a waste of time.” But — of course — that’s easier said than done.

When things are at their uneasiest, that’s when we tend to grasp hardest. When things feel mucky and stuck, that’s when we dig in our heels. Rather than fall gracefully, we react and make our lives more difficult. This definitely happens professionally  (e.g. when a strategy stops working, a new boss takes over the department, or a donor calls with a complaint ).

How can we learn to fall gracefully in work and in life? Here are some ideas I’ve tried to put into practice.

  1. Pay attention. It’s funny how out of tune with ourselves we can be. Notice things that signal struggle. Are you holding your breath? Are you not sleeping well? Does your heart rate spike when a co-worker interrupts you? The first  step is to recognize struggle in all it’s sneaky forms.
  2. Slow down. The best way to recognize struggle is to give yourself space. Don’t schedule back-to- back meetings. Take a 10 minute walk outside the office to check in with yourself. How do you feel? Describe the texture. By slowing down, you can better recognize grasping before it takes hold of you.
  3. Remember, everything is fleeting. The emotions you feel one moment can rapidly change. When you feel overwhelmed with sadness or anger, remember that it will pass. This has it’s flip side though. Happiness and joy also will pass.
  4. Be generous. When we struggle, we tend to have a “me-first” perspective. Being generous — with your ideas, with your praise, with your support — can help shift this.
  5. Laugh. A lot. Life can be heavy, but that doesn’t mean we have to approach it with stern seriousness. Bringing a sense of humor to your work and your place in the world is an excellent strategy for falling gracefully.

I know this wasn’t your “typical” fundraising post. But so much of our professional success depends on the big picture approach we take to life. Hopefully this gives you some food for thought.

Tell me how you fall gracefully in comments!