Do you recall the feeling you get when you’ve had a good stretch? Maybe it was this past weekend when you were able to sleep in (or to have a nap) and you awoke feeling refreshed, stretching leisurely like a cat. Perhaps you went for a run, or to the gym, and had a rigorous stretch after your work out. Recall the way your body felt after you’d given it a good stretch…it likely felt restored, invigorated and alive. Stretching is something we all do, our bodies ask for it and we comply in many small ways throughout the day without thinking about it (rotating your head and shoulders to loosen them up when working at your desk, etc.). Our bodies are great at signaling to us when we need to do this to reduce fatigue, strain and tension; wouldn’t it be great if our lives would tell us the same thing when we needed to stretch ourselves personally and professionally?
Of course we get indications we need to explore in our work or personal lives. Perhaps you’ve been reflecting that you need a new challenge, or that you no longer have the opportunity to learn something new on a regular basis. Maybe the people you work or live with no longer have new perspectives to offer; you’ve known each other for so long assumptions are made and patterns followed in a mindless way that can make things seem flat and a little dull. These are all signs you could use a “life stretch”. The really amazing thing about life stretches is that they don’t require much more time or investment then the physical kind. You can engage one on a very small scale that may open new things for you. It is a great way to explore and better understand what scope of change (or “pivot”) you may be looking for.
Start small; make one simple change in your life, not to make it better or more difficult, but just for the sake of experiencing “new”. Always brush your teeth with your dominant hand (most of us do)? Switch it up, brush with the other hand and see how it feels to do something different. There are other ways to do this, like taking a new route to work, or indulging in your morning coffee at a different point in your routine. The point of making this type change isn’t to frustrate you or improve you, it’s to see how you feel when you switch things up. What new perspectives open up for you? I have a friend who decided to take a new route to work, and now she is able to enjoy a much prettier commute; had she not decided to explore something new she wouldn’t have discovered it or be able to include it as part of her day (sometimes it is the best part of her day).
The paradox here for many of us is that we would like life to slow down, to allow us more time to soak in our vacations, children, partners and friends; to really master new skills and put them to good use. Yet at the same time we feel constricted and like we need a good life stretch. At it’s basic level a “life stretch” is driven by curiosity; just as our bodies have us automatically stretching to relieve muscle tension, our lives interject random thoughts and questions that, should we chose to heed them, can take us down some interesting paths. Another friend of mine took a class on a whim because it sounded really interesting and he needed to do something new - the results inspire me. That class ignited a passion, then a calling and is now a profession for him. He has often remarked how close a call it was that he even took that class, had he decided he didn’t have time he would have missed the opportunity to bring something amazing into his life.
Healthy stretching in any form is good for us. What will you stretch today?
Don't miss the Spring 2015 HR Summit on May 5th, 2015 hosted by Baird Benefits Plus/GR Baird Financial Group