Turning Your Vision into a Yoga Service Reality
by Sue Jones
I have recently begun writing a book that has lead me to reflect back on the development of the yogaHOPE TIMBo (Trauma Informed Mind Body) program. To anyone who stumbles upon this program presently, it is clear that the program is deliberately designed, research based, proven effective and achieving the goal of empowering communities of women in healing themselves from the inside out. I am thrilled that the program has reached communities of women from prisons in the U.S. to Haiti and Africa and soon Tehran. I am proud of what this program has accomplished and as I reflect back on the days before anyone had ever heard of TIMBo I remember with both gratitude and frustration a time when what is now a powerful and proven program was just an idea, a vision and a belief. In this reflection I profoundly appreciate the power of connection and collaboration. Without it, this program would have been dead in the water within weeks.
If you have a vision for a program, organization or service that you are trying to get off the ground or grow I am able to offer some words of wisdom for you. These words would have been greatly appreciated—perhaps even crucial, back when I was starting my organization. All the same, I have learned some valuable lessons, the most important of which I share now.
First off, you must have a clear belief that is fueling your vision. Think about it. Write it down. Rewrite it and make it specific yet universal. In his brilliant and inspiring TED talk Simon Sinek explains the importance of this very thing. His brilliant correlation between the hierarchies of the brain and knowing the why, how and what of what you do is captivating. In knowing why you do what you do, you have a better chance of making the impact on the world that you envision. Secondly, your idea or program must prove the belief. The belief behind TIMBo is that any woman—all women can be healed and empowered and as a result have the confidence, desire and means to heal and empower other women. The program (in Mr. Sinek’s words, the what) proves the belief. Any developmental decisions, refinements or modifications were made to that end. All outcomes are designed to measure the success of TIMBo in proving our belief. Anything that didn’t contribute to proving what we believed we ditched. Don’t be married to a model that doesn’t prove what you believe! And third, get your belief out into the world and attract people who believe what you believe. Because if you have a program that proves what others believe, they will help you. Your organization does not have to be big, but your voice should be. Use every possible network resource to let the world know you have something that proves what they believe. (Don’t worry about who “they” are—they will find you!) Even if your program hasn’t proved the belief (yet) you will attract people who can help you do just that—simply because they also want something to prove what they believe. It is not the TIMBo program that is drawing hundreds of people to our organization, it is this belief:
“We believe that women are the change makers in society. We believe that oppressed, disenfranchised, underserved and traumatized women have the potential to be healed, empowered and serve as leaders and teachers within their communities. We believe that these women can change the world.”
This is why people come to us. The fact that the program proves this belief—which is a belief shared by many, is why it is successful and sought after. This is critically important because if we want to create a paradigm shift in both the attitude and treatment or program models of the health care, education, or any other wide scale system we simply cannot do it alone. While some of us might by some slim chance have great influence on the systems in which we wish to have influence or create change, most of us are simply good hearted men and women who believe in something because it helped us and we in turn wish to help others.
While I remember hitting roadblocks here and there it wasn’t until I read through old emails and documents in the early days of yogaHOPE that I was able to see that the only reason this program made it to where it is today is because of people who shared my belief and came forward to help. Everyone from designers to program directors to health literacy specialists to photographers to clinical directors, superintendents of prisons and operations directors of NGOs were there at one crucial time or another to keep the program alive. Your innovative idea needs to attract core people who are critical to your efforts. These are decision makers, implementers, supporters, experts, evaluation partners and those with lived experience among others.
Innovations are new and exciting but also unproven and risky, so be prepared for current believers to become former believers when the chips are down. Don’t give up! For every believer who just couldn’t ride the inevitable ebb before the next flow there is another who is enthusiastic about an innovation that proves something in which they deeply believe. But through it all the most crucial person to your effort is you. You must know your belief, have rock solid conviction and share your belief with everyone you come in contact with. You must be flexible enough to change your idea with the objective being to prove your belief. The people you need to meet are out there and they will help because you have something that they want— a program that proves what they believe.
So I implore you now to take a step back from your organization, your administration, and even your program for a moment and ask yourself: Is what I’m doing backed by a strong and universally appealing belief? And are my programs proving this belief? If you can’t answer these two questions I promise you it will be worth your time to do so and make some changes if needed. You will have the impact on the world that you wish to have—with the help of your fellow believers.
* Sue Jones is the Founder of YogaHope and the TIMBo program, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing rehabilitative trauma-informed mind-body programming to women across the globe.