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Leaders Are Like Rubber Bands

Everything serves a purpose in some shape or form, but generally it has to be used in a certain way in order to have the most benefit. I have coasters sitting on my coffee table, yet I’ve had company over who have set their drinks directly on the table, right next to the coaster. The coaster isn’t serving its purpose, and my table will end up with water stains.

Likewise, a rubber band isn’t useful if it isn’t stretched. It’s the tension that is placed on the rubber band which helps it do its job.

When we aren’t stretched, when we don’t work through tension and learn how to navigate difficult situations, our growth becomes stagnant. On our Thursday Leadershift call, Mike said, “Too many people are willing to settle for average. How do you close the gap from where you are and where you want to be?”

I think sometimes people don’t even realize they are settling for average because they don’t possess a growth mindset. One can become so comfortable with their way of living that they don’t recognize the potential they have. You might be thinking- “Isn’t it good if someone is content with who they are?” Let me challenge that thought with two points:

First, there are two types of growth: physical growth and personal growth. I’m discussing the latter of these. Personal growth is what Leadershift is all about and it will almost always precede physical growth. In order to lead well, you have to be able to lead yourself. And that, my friends, requires stretching. It requires throwing yourself into the uncomfortable places that you know will stretch you and push you to your limits. It means stepping out of the safety net you built for yourself and taking some risks because you know there is still more within you to be discovered and refined.

It means recognizing that growth never stops. You never reach a point where you are done- a point where you have “attained the highest level of growth.” Because here’s the thing- when you grow, the ceiling always gets higher.

Second, contentment is a concept that can go hand in hand with growth- they don’t have to contradict one another. Contentment is about circumstances. I might have the position I want in life, but I can still want to grow within my position. Contentment is tied to physical circumstances, while growth is tied to personal development. You should be content with where you are at yet still be challenging yourself. The need to challenge yourself is rooted in the desire to do better, but that’s not rooted in discontentment! If your growth is rooted in discontentment, then eventually you’re going to run out of steam. For example, if you are discontent with yourself because of a comparison you’ve made to someone else, you aren’t changing and pursuing growth out of a desire to be the best you can be but to be as good or better than the person you are comparing yourself to. As Mike says, “Measure yourself against yourself. Measure yourself against what you’re capable of.”

Right now, I’m learning to grow in contentment with the season of life I am in. Contentment doesn’t mean we stop growing; rather, I think of it as a state of satisfaction. I can be satisfied with where I am at in life- free from a covetous nature or a longing to have something I don’t, yet still have an urgency to grow and learn more- an urgency to be the best version of myself each and every day. As I continue to strive for that, work on different inner qualities, seek advice and mentorship from those I respect, and experience all that life entails, “the best version of myself” will morph. Growth will happen.

Contentment keeps us grounded. Contentment helps us appreciate everything around us. The need for growth simultaneously pushes us to stretch ourselves, to step out of our comfort zone, and to work to the best of our ability.

Stretching can become a lifestyle, and I’m not talking about yoga- though some people have adopted that as a lifestyle. ;) According to an article in Psychology Today, the average person can make up to 35,000 choices on a daily basis. That means we have thousands of opportunities each time the sun comes up to choose to lean into the tension, to choose to stretch, to choose growth. It won’t happen by accident. It requires intentionality, and it requires sacrifice. Dustin Scott said, “Superior results will only occur as a result of superior effort.” If we want to excel in life, we must take significant actions; however, I think it’s important to acknowledge that a series of small intentional choices will always build on each other. When I choose to hold my tongue in a situation where I have a nasty but fantastic comeback, that is growth. When I extend grace to a friend or colleague who has let me down, yet again, I am choosing to practice the qualities I want to be built of.

I was talking to my husband the other day and he had to remind me that just because I want to make good choices doesn’t mean that I will. I have to have the discipline to say “no!’ to my emotive will and say “yes” to patience, self-control, and joy. I’m not always the best at that, but that is one way I have been deeply benefitting from Leadershift. Every week I am challenged to push myself more, to lean into the tension, and much like a rubber band- to stretch.

Growth isn’t always pleasant, and that’s why people often opt out of difficult situations or any type of discomfort. I heard a quote that went, “Average is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, and the worst of the best.”

Leaders are like rubber bands because they know they are most useful when they are being stretched. What are areas of your life that you are being stretched in? If you don’t have an answer, it might be time to make some changes.

Don’t become stagnant in your growth journey.

So, here’s to growth. Our growth.

Amy Davidson

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