I first encountered the concept of ‘stretching’ when listening to a recording (in the days before podcasts) by John Powell, an American motivational speaker. Powell discussed ‘stretching’ in the context of making life changes i.e. he suggested that, regularly in life, we need to stretch or challenge ourselves to do new things or to change our routines. The reason being that personal growth and development cannot occur otherwise.
An important factor in ‘stretching’ is the inherent discomfort that goes with it e.g. Depending on which hand you write with, have you ever experimented with writing with the other hand? It tends to feel awkward and quite uncomfortable and sometimes just plain wrong! Or have you ever tried an exercise that you don’t normally do and the next morning experienced some aches and pains in muscles you didn’t even know you had? This is because you are exercising muscles that don’t normally get used. When changing life habits or trying new things, it can create similar psychological or emotional ‘aches and pains’ during the phase of adjustment. It is important not to take this a sign that you should quit. When a child is learning to walk they fall down many times, they cry and scream and get frustrated but they never give up. Rather than being a sign that what you are doing is wrong, this pain can be seen as a reminder that we are moving in the right direction.
For example, for a person who tends always to put others before themselves, changing this habit could be very uncomfortable indeed. For such a person, putting themselves first might feel wrong or they may experience guilt and self doubt. This is not a sign that what they are doing is wrong but rather a sign that they are flexing a muscle that has not gotten much use, so the pain is inevitable. While the adjustment may be uncomfortable the long term pay off could be very rewarding. Similarly, a shy individual may experience a heightened level of social anxiety when joining a new group or club. However, facing this anxiety, rather than using it as a reason to withdraw, could lead to lasting life gains.
Why not take some time to evaluate your lifestyle? Are there any worthwhile new ventures you have been thinking of but have avoided due to fear of this type of discomfort? Are there any habits you have that you know do not serve you well and that you’d like to change? Try to ‘stretch’ yourself in new ways and when the discomfort inevitably kicks in, embrace it in the knowledge that it signals new horizons in your personal development.