‘End gaining is a universal habit’ (F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self). End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved.
For instance, how many people push to the extreme in order to win a race or goal, or continue to write yet more pages when exhausted – and then tear a muscle or develop RSI, both of which may jeopardise their careers?
From a global perspective, it worth the temporary end of gaining more wealth by cutting down the rainforests, whilst ruining the environment and putting the lives of people and many species of animals and plants at risk? Far better, surely, is to consider the means whereby we are earning our money and move towards sustainable development, which protects man and the environment.
When we end gain, we habitually rush into or continue an activity, often in a driven manner, without due consideration of the means-whereby we are using in order to reach our goal. Very often we will find that the more we try to reach our goal in this manner, the more distressed we become and the worse our performance of the task tends to get. When we do this, we often ignore the warning signs that could draw our attention to the fact that a problem is developing but instead, continue towards our goal. This frequently results in conditions such as poor co-ordination, strains, injury and even illness.
An interesting exploration of learning not to end-gain, albeit from a Buddhist perspective, describes this process in archery. The student is aware that ‘drawing the bow is a means to an end and I cannot lose sight of this connection’ to which the Zen master replies ‘The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed’
Eugen Herrigal ~ Zen in the Art of Archery p. 46
The author Aldous Huxley, who had lessons with Alexander, describes the Alexander Technique as being :
‘a technique of inhibition, working on the physical level to prevent the body from slipping back, under the influence of greedy ‘end-gaining’, into its old habits of mal-co-ordination, and working… to inhibit undesirable impulses… on the emotional and intellectual level’.