In recent blog posts I shared some insights on my three words to live by this year. So far I’ve covered Fit and Connect, now we’re ready for the third word: Stretch and how it applies to business success.
You might think I’m on a health kick (maybe I am), but stretch means a lot more to me than simply the physical implication of the word. If you’ve ever tackled a “stretch objective,” you know what I mean.
Sometimes stretching means pushing harder or further than we allow ourselves to believe our capabilities permit. I encountered this just the other day as Atlanta was paralyzed with traffic gridlock during a winter storm. I know those of you in colder states are thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Bear with me…
The Forced Stretch: Unexpected Challenges
I was heading back to the office after a mid-day meeting and got caught in “Trafficopalypse” as some have taken to calling it. Summoning the patience to creep along at less than 1 MPH was nothing for me compared to the challenge of driving across bridges and up hills as snow turned to ice.
For this Florida native, my 12-hour ordeal was an adventure I’d prefer not to repeat. I never would have imagined I’d make it home safely without running off the road, sliding out of control or even crashing into another car (or being hit by one). But I did it.
The challenge presented itself, I stretched and succeeded. That feels good, although I won’t be rushing out to try my new ice-driving skills any time soon!
Physical challenges, boundaries and limitations are often finite and visible. We may not know exactly what’s ahead, but at least we can see it coming and brace ourselves, preparing with the resources we have on hand.
The Psychic Stretch
While external challenges call on us to stretch in response (“fight or flight” at work), internal battles can catch us off guard and present a different set of challenges. Inner demons like flagging confidence and negative self-talk are more evasive, shifting shape and appearing unannounced when we least expect them.
Conquering inner self doubt is almost more difficult that overcoming external obstacles that block our way. We have to change our mindset to address these problems head-on. Developing habits that stretch us on a regular basis, so the unexpected is less daunting.
I always strive to extend myself, taking on new challenges and trying things I’ve never done before. This year, I’ve conscientiously affirmed my need to stretch in business as well, making a personal commitment to stretch strategically in ways the help me – and my clients – grow.
The expanse of this commitment reaches from professional goals like developing new offerings and speaking at events more regularly to pushing myself not only to do more, but to live more. Balancing creative pursuits in my business and personal life with fun, family and new clients often requires leaving my comfort zone behind.
Being self-employed or working from home can easily become an island of isolation for people who don’t have an intentional approach to stretching boundaries of place and mind. To alleviate this problem, I’ll extend myself by reading and writing more, engaging more (see “Connect”), and traveling whenever possible. I might even make it to Bali if I meet some of my other objectives for the year!
Challenging Others to Stretch
The concept of stretching further can easily be applied in coaching and mentoring programs. You may have had a coach who pushed you to achieve things in the past. Usually that accountability helps propel us forward, especially when we’re stuck in neutral, fearful of what’s ahead.
Stretching also fits consulting engagements. While some consultants make it a habit to tell clients what they want to hear, the best ones practice tough love. They don’t sugar-coating the truth, they lay it out with realistic candor and practical solutions.
That’s my philosophy. Businesses don’t grow without making difficult choices, so I’ll be sure to be frank, bringing my traditional optimism to the table along with a reality check when necessary.
In my work, I’ll encourage clients and readers like you to stretch boundaries as well.
- Are you thinking big enough?
- Have you considered all the options?
- Are there possibilities you’ve overlooked?
You can be sure I’ll ask lots of questions like these. When I do, what will you answer?