The rubber band was made to stretch.
When not stretched, it is relaxed; there is no tension, it just is there, doing nothing.
Now that might not be all that bad, doing nothing; but doing nothing is not really its purpose.
Its purpose is to bind, by being stretched and then retracting; like keeping a newspaper rolled up. Like keeping pencils bundled. Maybe keeping a plastic bag sealed.
Or it’s purpose might be to abruptly alter your attention, like with a stretch and then a snap back causing a momentary sting of pain …
Or it’s purpose might be to provide self defense — or entertainment! — like when a strong stretch and release projects it into the far reaches of a room …
To accomplish its purpose, it needs to be stretched.
Start stretching it, and it becomes useful. Stretch a little more, and it has increased capability. Stretch a little more, and it has considerable power.
But stretch too much…
* * * * *
We are like rubber bands.
Living is our purpose.
Accomplishing our purpose — living a life — requires stretch.
Play is stretch. School is stretch. Dating is stretch. Loving is stretch. Marriage is stretch. Pregnancy is stretch (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
Parenting, also, for sure. And running a household. Managing the dynamics of an aging extended family.
And, of course, work. A new project. Another project. A new role. A different technology. Increased responsibilities. A different boss. Higher expectations.
Lots of stretch.
It seems, like the rubber band, that is what we do.
There is, though, one rather significant difference between that rubber band and you and I, as we stretch.
Unlike rubber bands, we can feel the stretch.
We feel the tension of the stretch. We feel the stress of the stretch. We sometimes fear the stretch.
There is no denying the apprehension we feel!
Like when a mother in labor anticipates the next contraction. Like when a father must see his teenage daughter go on her first date.
Like when we can’t sleep the night before presenting a project update. Or when we’re responsible for facilitating a conference call. Or when we have a performance review discussion.
We can sense when we are being stretched to the limit. We can feel when we are coming close to being stretched too much …
Like when multiple priorities overwhelm our time management and organization skills, and we find ourselves feeling out of control and in the grip of dysfunction.
This feeling, our feeling while we’re stretching, is truly a wonderful gift! For two reasons —
First, our feelings can guide our actions. We can retract when we want to. We can pull back when we need to. We can seek help when we have to.
And, secondly but just as importantly, our feelings provide a super special reward!
We, unlike the rubber band, feel the satisfaction of the stretch.
Like when we hear the first cry of life from our newborn baby. And when she places first in the short-story competition at school. And when she falls in love…
And like when your team resolves a personality conflict and begins working well together. And when they respond to an unreasonable customer expectation with a real process innovation. And when they become leaders of teams themselves…
* * * * *
We are exquisitely and uniquely designed to handle all the stretching that living requires of us.
Like the rubber band, we are made to stretch.