by | Nov 21, 2019 | Alignment, Calling, Career, Emotional Health, Growth, Leadership, Mentors, Ministry Leader, Pastor

Today Jaime Hlavin brings another insightful and thought-provoking post to us on the subject of personal alignment. The more aligned you are, the healthier you get. And the healthier you get, the better chance you have of reaching your full potential ~ John

At Converge Coaching, we talk a lot about leading from alignment.

Merriam-Webster defines alignment as “the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other.” It’s crucial that the areas of our lives are in correct placement in relation to all other parts in order to function properly. This concept resonates deeply with me as our family recently went on a journey illustrating this idea.

Each year I take my children to the pediatrician for a check-up. Part of the examination includes a spinal evaluation. In 2018, during her routine exam, my oldest daughter, Kayla, bent over at the waist for the spine check. A look of concern clouded the pediatrician’s face as she instructed Kayla to stand up. She then measured the evenness of Kayla’s hips and shoulders. “I’m seeing what looks like a bit of asymmetry here. I’m sending her for an x-ray,” the doctor said.

The x-ray showed that her spine was misaligned in the shape of the letter “S.” My 14-year old was referred to an orthopedic surgeon with a possible “adolescent idiopathic scoliosis” diagnosis. After reviewing the x-ray, performing measurements and asking about discomfort and pain levels, the orthopedic surgeon confirmed the diagnosis.

According to her doctor, scoliosis is a fairly common and manageable condition. Treatment depends on the severity of the curve and if the individual is done growing. Kayla has a 27-degree, S-shaped curve which is considered “minor to moderate”—not significant enough to require surgery. However, she was still in the middle of her growth spurt and there was a chance the curve could get worse eventually causing long-term issues. An orthotics specialist fitted her for a hard, plastic brace that she would wear 13 hours a day for a year while she finished growing. Also, a 6-week physical therapy regimen was added to teach her strengthening and stretching exercises in order to alleviate the pressure, pain and numbness in her lower back and legs.

She initially resented having to wear the brace as it was uncomfortable and made her extremely self-conscious in public settings. Also, the chronic pain and discomfort resulted in a temporary stint of self-pity. Eventually, she moved through these emotions and accepted her plight. However, after several months, we discovered she was too dependent on the brace: Her core muscles had become extremely weak. Therefore, whenever she was out of the brace for any period of time, she experienced significant pain.

As she approached the one-year mark, her emotions again heightened because she knew she’d have to relinquish the comfort of the brace.  She needed to do the exercises the physical therapist had shown her at the beginning of her treatment. But she didn’t. Because like her momma, she’s not a big fan of physical activity. (I told her that teenage metabolism doesn’t last forever conveniently leaving out the fact my own doctor recently chastised me for declaring that a daily walk to and from the bus stop is moderate exercise.)

Last month, her doctor ended her orthotic treatment because all signs indicate she’s done growing. No more brace. But he sent her back to physical therapy and strongly urged her to strengthen that core. To her credit, she’s worked hard this past month to get back on track.

Kayla’s experience is an allegory illustrating the effects of a lack of alignment. Here is what I learned about leading through alignment via my daughter’s experience with scoliosis:

A lack of alignment causes problems.

Normalcy becomes difficult or impossible. For Kayla, her misaligned spine prevented her from comfortably sleeping, walking, and sitting. I contend that spiritual, medical, psychological, physical, schedule, relational, or rhythmic misalignment impacts much in our lives. Our daily tasks, responsibilities, and relationships are adversely affected if we are out of sync.

Numbness can occur. My daughter’s physical misalignment put pressure on a nerve causing numbness in her leg. If we continue to function in misalignment, the pressure can cause us to go numb to important aspects of our lives, churches, or the organizations we lead. We can just go through the motions without feeling anything—all the while real damage takes place.

Pain is inevitable. Her unmanaged scoliosis caused pain. Eventually, if we do nothing to fix the misalignment, pain will occur—whether our own or someone we are called to lead.

Sometimes we need help fixing our alignment

An external support system is sometimes necessary to get us back on track. Just like my daughter needed an orthotic brace to help her while she grew, sometimes we need the assistance of something or someone on the outside to keep us aligned while we grow and mature. Whether through a mentor, an accountability partner, a counselor or a cohort group, just be sure to get the help you need to straighten out.

If we’re not careful, we can become too dependent on the external support system. She depended on her brace too long, and her own muscles became weak. While it’s good to have a system to help in times of need, there will come a time when ultimately, we have to be strong enough on our own to maintain alignment.

We must maintain our alignment through regular hard work and “exercise.” Just as 6 weeks of physical therapy won’t permanently keep Kayla’s core muscles strong enough to support her back, a one-time tweak of our alignment won’t fix us forever. Regular evaluation and adjustment combined with ongoing maintenance is crucial.

For some additional resources on practical ways to incorporate healthy alignment into your life, click here , and here , and here Or if you’d rather listen to a great podcast about alignment, click here.

See you next time.

I’m rooting and praying for you!