Tuesday 16 October 2007

Let's Get Straight to the Point About End-Gaining

In teaching the Aexander Technique (AT), we talk about the principle of "end gaining". We almost accuse people of end gaining as if it were some sort of moral crime.

So what is this principle according to AT? I'll come to that later. For the time being let's get something straight about end gaining in a general sense.

In life, I personally admire end-gainers - the achievers who have a vision and get things done. These are the people who make a difference. Without them, life would be reduced to a state of apathy and neglect where nothing ever changed. End-gaining is good. If you choose to live your life without goals, you'd might as well spend all your time sitting staring at a wall.

However, no-one likes a person who is so driven and fixated on achieving a goal that they insensitively trample over everyone and anything that gets in their way.

Then there are people who expect to have everything now. In this "fast track" society, we are conditioned to expect to satisfy our desires without having to "do" anything to achieve them. This is the age of instant food, instant communication and even instant fame. We don't expect to have to pay much attention to how our wishes are met, we just pay the money and expect it to happen. In my day we called people who lived their lives like this "greedy" or "spoiled brats".

In summary, there's nothing wrong with end-gaining per se but it's easy to see how end gainers can be a bit obnoxious.

So, how can you be an end-gainer and still look yourself in the mirror with a smile and a wink?

It's all about the way you go about it! There are more considered ways of achieving your objectives where you can avoid hacking everyone off and there's no gratification in achieving anything that you haven't had to work for.

This little rant is actually the essence of what Mr. Alexander was trying to convey when he talked about end gaining.

When you are stimulated into activity - for example turning your head in response to hearing your name spoken, taking a step out of the shower in the morning or teeing-off at the first hole on the golf course - you will have a natural tendency to just "do" it in the way you always respond to such a stimulation. This unthinking, habitual way of responding isn't necessarily the "right" way to respond, no matter whether it feels right or not.

In AT, we learn to resist our unthinking ways of responding to stimuli. In our heads, we say "no" to acting instinctively. We are saying "no" to the habitual way of responding. This is what we call "inhibition".

OK, so let's assume we've got this far - we have been stimulated into action and we have inhibited our natural tendency to just "go for it". What do we do now?

We think and then we direct the way in which we execute our actions. We choose a means whereby we can respond in an elegant way that doesn't cause undue tension in our body. I'm not going to try to explain here exactly how to do that. That's what having an Alexander lesson with a trained AT teacher is all about!

It's unfortunate that we AT teachers chose to describe this idea using the words "end gaining" because, in my opinion, this misses the real point - it's about the means rather than the end.

In modern language, we could describe it as "the go-for-it mentality". I like this expression. The "it" is the response to a stimulus - the "go-for" is the means whereby we achieve "it" - and it's a mental process.

This subject is sometimes misquoted by AT teachers - who ought to know better. They use the non-end-gaining principle to discourage their puplis from having goals in the first place. Wrong! To get the most out of life, everyone should have ambitions, set themselves objectives, goals and targets. The achievement of a goal is one of life's sweet experiences - provided it's done with good use.

You've got to have a dream
If you don't have a dream
How're you going to make a dream come true?


  1. Congratulations to the Marketing Dept of Jeff Hall, Alexander Teacher Inc, for another nicely calculated bit of PR.

    But tell me, Mr "Alexander Teacher": if my dream, or the end I want to gain, is to clarify the teaching of Gautama the Buddha, how might the technique you teach help me with that?

  2. Well-spotted Mike. I guess that, having run my "real" business for the last 10 years selling software on the internet, it's my instinct to promote rather than to explain! Is that a "habit" to be inhibited?

    It was my goal to stimulate an appreciation of the "means-whereby" principle and to discourage my reader from focussing on the label "end gaining". I'm happy with the way I went about it, even if I may not have exactly achieved the result I envisaged.

    I assume that "The Technique" that I teach is the same as the one that you teach - albeit that we go about it in different ways.

    The question about how to clarify the teaching of the Buddha is a very worthy one - but - it's not one that can AT could help you with unless it stimulates you into action.

    It seems to me that the pursuit of understanding by intellectual, inspirational, revalatory, intuitive or other means is outside the remit of AT. AT is about improving physical use.

    On the other hand, if a prerequisite of sitting in meditation is to find a point of stillness within your physical being then "stillness" can be considered as a goal to be achieved.

    I, as an "Alexander Teacher", would be looking to identify any stimuli that prevent you from achiving this goal and to try to help you inhibit your undue responses. I would encourage you to detach yourself from the goal of being still and to attend to the means whereby stillness comes about in a non-doing way.

    I can see how this could become a recursive process.

  3. Do you have copy writer for so good articles? If so please give me contacts, because this really rocks! :)

  4. Ha ha! I'm flattered that you should think I have a copy writer... but wouldn't that defeat the whole point about having a "blog"?