End-Gaining (aka The Dangers of Being Too Results Oriented)

For a long time I’ve been a fan of trusting nature to know what’s best for us.

What’s best for our bodies, our diets, our well-being, our communities and the world we live in.

However, whilst philosophically believing in the power of nature, in mindfulness, in healing naturally, eating naturally, thinking naturally and moving naturally, I fail to do a lot of these things a lot of the time.

Nothing is wiser than nature.

I have a sweet tooth and eat sugary, processed food way too much, even though I know it is bad for me.

I have poor posture when I’m sitting and I regularly think in the future or the past when I’d much rather maintain the habit of living in the present.

All that being said, for most of these things at least I am conscious of what I’m doing and regularly give myself the opportunity to make small adjustments.

The Alexander Technique

The one thing from that list I’m not very good at improving is my posture.

Not because I don’t think about it or lack the intention to improve, but because I have a lot less knowledge about what to do about it in comparison to the other areas.

So, deciding I’d better do something about that and having done a little research, I decided I’d like to learn more about the Alexander Technique which seems to be right up my street and a reputable and proven approach to achieving better posture and sorting all kinds of physical posture-related problems.


In the very first chapter of the book, the author talks about what Alexander refers to as End-Gaining. The point the author (and The Alexander Technique) is making with this concept is that of our propensity to focus on results (or End-gain) and in fact to be so focused on results that we are hurting ourselves. The author states that we humans are do-ers, we love to be ‘doing’ something and that if we let go and stop doing then we benefit.

How does this relate to posture?

End-gaining is best observed in people in a hurry (those most focused on results or a destination) – people rushing for a train will be doing so with their heads down and forwards and the rest of their bodies following on behind at a considerable, un-natural angle.

In an exercise the author invites the reader to focus on their front door the next few times they return home and try to notice something new each time. They suggest that the reader, though very familiar with their own street and home probably pay it little attention on a day to day basis, paying more attention to their goal of getting home or finding their keys to achieve their goal (opening the door).

The author also goes on to point out the very strong link between our thoughts and our actions, that the body has a tendency to move and perform based on strong sub-conscious signals as well as any deliberate, conscious control we may have. In fact, our conscious control can do a lot of damage and some of our habits may need to be un-learned (easier said than done).

Familiar Territory, Different Jargon

So, obviously, I’m in agreement with what the author has written and what I’ve read so far (I still haven’t finished chapter 1).

I call this mindfulness (resistance of end-gaining).

Interestingly, the author talks a lot about choices – that once you have freed yourself from your focus on the destination (en-gaining), then you should return to your usual habits (end-gaining). They state that end-gaining is a choice and is not wrong but ask the reader to compare how they felt physically whilst end-gaining and not end-gaining (which I would interpret as practicing mindfulness and not practicing mindfulness – same thing).

I found this very interesting.

Your thoughts shape your actions – of course they do. Changing your thoughts can change your actions (as can changing your beliefs, particularly limiting beliefs).

More on the Power of Thought

In another section the author asks the reader to think about something without acting (the premise being that the body will follow the thought in any case). The thought experiment in question is to imagine a piece of string attached to your head which is pulling you gently upright. The expectation is that someone practicing this clearly and honestly with clear thought will experience their head imperceptibly moving upwards.

I can certainly relate to this having had similar experiences.

I once took a course to learn about hypnosis. A common approach to test people’s openness to hypnosis is to have them close their eyes and imagine they are holding a heavy dictionary in the open palm of one outstretched hand and imagine a helium-filled balloon tied to their other outstretched hand. Of course when they open their eyes, their hands have moved (the one with the imaginary dictionary down and the one with the imaginary balloon up) – very similar to the above exercise from the Alexander technique book.

Final Thought – Why Mention End-Gaining?

So Alexander was obviously a very smart guy and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of his book.

The reason I’m writing about this (particularly after not haven written anything for a while now) is that this serves as a useful reminder to consider living in the moment. To stop rushing around and appreciate nature, to focus on our present environment and actions rather than ‘End-gaining’ and to enjoy the journey rather than only focusing on the destination.

The jargon is different (i.e. Alexanders jargon and commonly accepted terms for the same or similar concepts, or what I have called these concepts in other articles on this site) but the principles are the same and it is very interesting that these principles crop up under different guises.

I could have gone on to talk about how, as in nature, small damages, learning from our mistakes, absence of ‘safe’ environments and protectionism is a good thing in politics, economics and business as well as in social circles, medicine and general well-being but perhaps another time and I have now mentioned it briefly here for your consideration.

So for me this is a useful reminder, the further we get from nature, the further we get from true wealth and prosperity – from our true nature and well-being.


End-Gaining (aka The Dangers of Being Too Results Oriented) — 1 Comment

  1. Interesting perspective that boils down to mindfulness. Several months ago I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now and the rest of his teachings. It’s about being present and the principles plus techniques to stay present (mindful). I found that while reading his books, I gradually got better at being present. However, now I catch myself numerous times lost in thought of past or future. I feel the way I can keep present is keep reading and learning about being present. Maybe if I spend months doing this, I can let go of the material, and not revert to my old habits (in mind and end-gaining).

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