This article is based on my best-selling book: The Art of Significance
Law 3: Proactively Stretch Instead of Change
Is change the only constant in life?
That’s what we’re conditioned to believe…
But I don’t believe it’s true. The only constant in life that I’ve observed is the resistance or reluctance to change. We’re conditioned to wait for change to happen to us and seek superficial evidence of positive change…
…a promotion, a raise, recognition.
If you’re seeking success, changing might bring that about. If you’re seeking a life of significance, you must abandon your pursuit of change and learn to empower yourself by stretching.
Proactively stretching instead of changing
So many people fail because they can’t change the bad habits that hinder them. Successful people have managed some change, but they progress only up to a point— and then they stop and stagnate.
Why? Don’t they have the talent and the smarts?
Aren’t they often in the right place at the right time?
Their problem is they lack an internal drive to surpass themselves. Content with success, they would rather remain in the realm of the “impressive” known rather than venture into the “important” – but riskier – realm of the unknown.
Not realizing that great is not good enough, they refuse to go beyond change and embrace stretch, a more profound, more personal, more meaningful growth process that helps you empower yourself.
If you don’t know how to empower yourself to be better today than you were yesterday, you aren’t on a path that will lead to a life of significance.
Stretching requires a level of discomfort
Stretching requires occupying a place of discomfort. It means suffering a little and sacrificing a great deal, to empower yourself and grow.
I liken it to physiotherapy.
When I was recovering from a snapped Achilles tendon, the physiotherapist pushed my foot just past the point of comfort…and held it there. Was it painful? Absolutely. Was it doing harm? Absolutely not. My muscles were getting a reminder of their range…
An interesting thing would happen in the early going: She’d press my foot just beyond my limited range of motion, painfully stretching my Achilles. She’d hold it there and, when she’d let go, it would snap right back to its original position.
How often do you see this in your organization? Your team goes to a rousing training seminar, guest speakers get everyone fired up and committed to personal or organization “change”…and a few weeks later, everyone has snapped back to their old habits.
Stretching requires embracing the “why”
Why does this happen?
Because leaders make a common mistake: They ask their employees to change. They force them through exercises designed to change them…and then they let go of the reins.
Employees are supposed to sustain the desired behaviors without any follow-up or support from their supervisors.
Since they were pushed or pulled towards the change, they have no internal motivation to sustain their efforts.
They were told “what” to do…but not “why.”
When the physiotherapist pushed my foot beyond my comfort zone, I was clear on why I was experiencing this pain…I was sacrificing comfort now for better mobility and a full recovery later.
Do you, as a leader, share the “why” with your employees? Or are you assuming they’ll just follow orders because ‘you said so’?
Four Suggested Action Steps to Learning to Stretch
My book goes into greater detail about The Third Law of stretching…but here’s a summary of four suggested actions you can take to empower yourself.
1. Accept that no matter where you go, there you are
What do I mean by that? I mean, changing offices, projects, jobs, cities – external factors – won’t change what’s inside you. That remains unless you commit to stretching yourself from the inside out.
Conduct an honest assessment of your “self” using these guidelines and rating yourself on a scale of 1 to 15. You’ll see this represented as a “Balance Wheel” on page 67 of my book.
- Physical fitness
- Continuous education
- Deeper spirituality
- Emotional stability
- Social networking
- Financial responsibility
- Family togetherness
- Leisure fun
- Charitable giving
The Balance Wheel is designed as a visual aid that gives you a place to start on your personal development journey. It’s a tool you can use to track your progress in these areas of your life…to see where you’re stretching and where you’re stagnating.
(I talk a lot about the Balance Wheel in my leadership training found here.)
2. Create a “Board of Directors”
Once you’ve created your Balance Wheel, pick at least six people from diverse backgrounds, vocations, and religions and enlist their assistance.
Because you love and respect these individuals, approach each with the humble request that he or she becomes your “physical therapist” of the mind and heart— the person who will mentor you, helping you stretch from where you are to where you need to be.
3. Give them a list
With each of your mentors, make a list of only one thought and action in each of the nine areas you can and will immediately work on.
The objective: Stretch up just one notch number on the Balance Wheel measurement line.
If you rated yourself as a five for spirituality and committed to an hour of Bible study a day to raise yourself to a six, tell your mentor your plan. Ask that they support you while you make an effort to fulfill that promise to yourself.
4. Recommit in writing
Each time you stretch and improve one number and one single step on the Balance Wheel scale, commit yourself in writing to sustaining this extraordinary thinking and new behavior until it becomes a new habit and unique pattern.
This ensures that you’ll never flip back to your previous mindsets and behaviors.
It’s the journey, not the destination
Successful people change their destinations and relish the arrival, while significant people stretch and thrive during the journey.
They’re willing at any moment to sacrifice what they are for who they could become.
To stretch is to know that the greatest reward for your hard work is not what you get for it but what you become by it.
It can be challenging to get started on that journey. We’re more accustomed to being led than leading ourselves. But if you empower yourself to stretch, you’ll discover a better person today than you were yesterday.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you live a life of significance: