It was as a grad student in Social Work that I formally started taking into account a person’s stage in life when working with them. I was studying developmental psychology and applying it in the field. As I progressed in my studies and career I began to more actively notice the ways, within a family or community group, multiple developmental stages at play can interact with one another. I also began factoring in the way different life stages mighty show up among my colleagues and me. As my work began to focus more on the business side of things, I guess it was inevitable for it to occur to me that businesses, just like people, often move through developmental stages over the course of their “life”.
I started to take note of businesses in “childhood” – a period of time when so many processes and experiences are new, when we don’t quite have the full vocabulary to fully express our potential nor enough life experience to move with stability. Yet we have an excitement – a rash of curiosity and braveness often fueled by the sheer fact that we don’t know any better. 8 Limbs began in such a way, not fluent in the nuts and bolts of running a business but having lots of energy, along with extra pluck for saying check me out!
I began to consider too how businesses can grow to mirror attitudes and behaviors of a teenager. Filling out and growing up, it becomes safer, compelling even, to get risky and push the envelope. The desire to individuate becomes more pronounced. During the adolescent years of a business, like a teenager, one often sees a harnessing of talent paired with a bravado that helps cast those talents further out into the world. On the plus side this often translates into a streamlining of efforts that help build capacity and a rising quality of services. On the downside, not all risks are particularly smart and not all bravado sits on merit. Again, 8 Limbs grew in similar ways. As we nurtured the spirit within us, both in business and in teaching yoga, we started taking more and greater risks. Sometimes these risks paid off – we offer more breadth and depth as a direct result of pushing our limits. Sometimes they backfired – we faced tough financial swings and had plenty of opportunities to eat crow. But like a typical teen, it was in the midst of these big ups and downs that our personality really began to take shape. It’s not surprising to me that it was during our “teen” years when we became clear in how we differentiate from others, adopting the tag line many paths, follow yours.
And then similarly to teenagers moving into adulthood, I’ve seen how businesses (who make it this far) often step into a new level of maturity. In people, the executive branch of our brain finally (and thankfully) fully develops during this period. As skillfulness combines with experience, businesses also tend to develop the capacity for greater discernment. They factor in more variables at play and get better at responding over reacting. Risks are more likely to be curated and calculated. And instead of being convinced one knows everything, a sense of humility begins to set in – that awareness of just how much more there is to learn.
2016 marks the year where 8 Limbs officially says goodbye to adolescence and hello to adulthood as we celebrate 20 years in business. In moving out of our teenage years I can’t help but notice how our ability to be thoughtful and discerning has grown. We’re listening better. We’re still interested in doing our thing but we’re stable enough to do our thing while hearing others and not being too proud to admit when we miss the mark. With that, we’re able to take on more responsibility and tackle trickier territory. I’ve seen this as we actively take on the issues of bias that exist in both 8 Limbs and the yoga community as a whole this past year.
We still have a lot to learn. But as I sit here on the cusp of our adulthood, I’m aware that we never really lost that pluck from our childhood, nor the spirited talent and personality from our teen years, and how well these past 19 years have set us up for this next stage. Personally, I’m excited to see what our 20’s bring us! In the meantime, please join us October 15th as we officially celebrate turning 20 – and this thing called adulthood.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, 8 Limbs Executive Director
Join Ashley, along with Senior Teacher Tracy Hodgeman this Saturday at 8 Limbs West Seattle for Self-Compassion: A Radical Path. Ashley will also be leading monthly mid-day, drop-in meditation classes at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill throughout the Fall schedule: Wednesdays, 12:30 – 1:00pm on October 12th, November 16th, December 7th and January 11th.