#10: The Law of the Rubber Band
Growth Stops When You lose the tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be
"Only a mediocre person is always at his best." -- W. Somerset Maugham
We're all familiar with the phrase "comfort zone" and unfortunately, that is where most of us spend our life; inside our little comfort zone. The only way to develop our potential is by stretching- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually- outside our comfort zone.
That is a terrifying thought for most of us, myself included; after all, the implication of "outside of our comfort zone" is that it won't be comfortable. As a result, most people only use a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential because too many people are willing to settle for "good enough." Are you willing to choose comfort over potential?
To remind me of the importance of stretching myself outside my comfort zone, I have various quotes scattered around my work and living space to help me maintain a growth mindset. Some of my favorites include:
"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to our courage."
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
"What would you do if you were not afraid?"
"Refuse to be limited by your comfort zone."
"Let your faith be bigger than your fear."
"Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable."
The Law of the Rubber Band is that rubber bands are only useful when stretched, and the same can be said of us.
As John Maxwell writes, "you will only reach your potential if you have the courage to push yourself outside your comfort zone and break out of a mindset of mediocrity. You must be willing to leave behind what feels familiar, safe, and secure. You must give up excuses and push forward. You must be willing to face the tension that comes from stretching toward your potential."
So how can you be intentional about stretching outside your comfort zone?
1 - Stretching starts from the inside out
Instead of wishing, wanting, and waiting, you need to search inside for reasons to start.
Remember that your situation in life is mainly due to the choices you make and the actions you do or fail to take. Jim Rohn once said, "Every life form seems to strive to its maximum except human beings. How tall will a tree grow? As tall as it possibly can. Human beings, on the other hand, have been given the dignity of choice. You can choose to be all, or you can choose to be less. Why not stretch up to the full measure of the challenge and see what all you can do?"
2 - Stretching Requires Change
Stop looking over your shoulder. It's difficult to focus on your past and change in the present. You should treat your history like your rearview mirror; it helps you stay aware of your surroundings, but if you stare into it too long, you'll crash instead of moving forward.
Work on developing your "reach muscle." If you want to grow and change, you must take risks. According to John Maxwell, "People who take risks learn more and faster than those who don't. Their depth and range of experience is often greater. And they learn how to solve problems. The greatest stretching seasons of life come when we do what we have never done, push ourselves harder, and reach in an uncomfortable way."
“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” — Abraham Maslow
3 - Stretching Sets You Apart From Others
Successful people set themselves apart because they initiate the improvement that others need. When you get better, those around you benefit too. Make it your goal to make your bosses smarter, your team more effective, and the company more competitive because of your energy, creativity, and insights.
4 - Stretching is a lifestyle, not a Phase
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav said, "If you won't be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?" When we stop stretching, we stop living; we become dead on the inside and to our greatest possibilities.
This week, consider the areas of your life in which you've lost your stretch and settled in.
Where are you falling short of your potential?
What goals haven't you hit that you know you're capable of?
What habits have you developed that are hindering you from moving forward?
What areas of past success have you stopped winning in?
Use your lack of satisfaction to get you started anyplace you've stalled. Be strategic to maintain the tension between where you are and where you could be by continually resetting intermediate-range goals for yourself.
Set a specific time frame for your goals to maintain tension.
Set your goals according to your personality and revisit them at the end of those time frames.
Ensure your goals are barely within reach; not too easy, but not impossible either.
If you need an overarching goal to keep you stretching, think about what significant action you could take if only you become what you could be. Dream big, and set this as your lifetime goal!