In Honor of Cecilia: Stretching, not breaking

My late friend and colleague Cecilia used to always say, “There’s a fine line between a stretch and a break.” In my last blog, I spoke about bandwidths and how to move beyond them. But to return to what Cecilia said, it’s important to note that when we notice a limitation and stretch toward a new goal‚ that we stretch. Not break.

A stretch may be small—just a couple of degrees beyond our normal bandwidth. But even the smallest stretch opens us up to expansion. It inspires confidence. We find we can stretch again and yet again. Stretches tend to be enough to excite us and can build up what is known as the “winner effect.” This is where we begin to rewire our emotional DNA into the “can-do” mode.  We experience more aliveness and become more of ourselves. 

A break on the other hand, can happen when we’ve been too ambitious and pushed ourselves beyond our current actualizing potential. Overreaching and not achieving a goal can activate stress hormones and tell us, again, that we’re failures. This hurts and does not inspire confidence to try to expand our bandwidth a second time.

Unless we have been through a difficult period, life is at its most exciting when we have dream and goals. And after a hard period, sometimes peace is the goal. Dreams and goals invite us to evoke more and more of our true selves. Of course, they also require a stretch. And there is nothing more exciting than when we’ve stretched and had a dream come true.  Conversely, making a dream so ambitious that it is unachievable can set us up for a world of disappointment.

When I work with organizations that have encountered a break—a failure—one of the first things I ask them to do is to list both their failures and their successes. I find it fascinating that most corporate managers are used to listing failures but find it difficult to list what actually did work, When they finally do make that list, they are frequently surprised to find they actually have taken steps toward a particular goal. They may not have hit it—yet—but they indeed have accomplished a stretch and find they have a new starting point. 

My point is, even a break can serve as a positive motivator when you understand that it may be part of a stretch  Goals don’t always have to be reached in one gigantic, effortful push. Sometimes they simply require a couple of stretches. 

NOTE: Stretching may feel easier and build up a “winner effect” quicker. But you don’t want to be afraid of going all out. Just remember, if you do experience a break, it’s simply asking for another step to get you to your goal. It’s only a failure if you label it as such and make no further effort.

A stretch may make you feel queasy without feeling easy, but when you achieve it, you know you have grown beyond your limiting emotional DNA.

Pro tip:  Take any area of your life where you put up barriers or resistance and ask yourself what one small step you can take beyond that. Congratulations! You have just engaged the art of stretching!

To find out more about your emotional DNA and how to make stretches a part of your daily life, join me at one of my live events.