Tension: The Secret Sauce to Impactful Personal Growth
A few years ago, I was stuck in a rut.
I had to force myself to go into work each morning. I had to truly push myself to even TRY to care. Don’t get me wrong – even on my most slack-happy days, I still commit a great deal, but the list of things that I felt like I OUGHT to do heavily outweighed all that I WANTED to do.
As someone who suffered with depression as a child, I started to wonder if that was what I was falling into. I wanted to sleep. Or sit. Or just – not deal with my responsibilities. Was this depression all over again? I reasoned that even in my most depressed state, I had never been THIS avoidant. I could always light a fire under myself, workout regularly, and tend to my responsibilities. In the past, the fear of failing always outweighed the need to give in to my dissatisfaction. I taught myself from an early age that my internal signals to slow down were a sign of laziness, so I pushed myself with brute force at every opportunity to achieve even higher.
But this time was different.
So, what did I do? I took a few days off of work. I let myself cry. I let myself feel. I gave myself SPACE. I meditated and allowed myself to dream a little bigger than my current situation. I asked myself the question: If this current situation isn’t where I want to be, where did I want to be?
As soon as I asked myself the question of what I truly wanted to be doing, it’s like the answer appeared immediately. I felt a surge of energy run through me as the possibilities started mounting. I started looking up yoga retreats in foreign countries. I started planning my escape route from work and thinking of new jobs and ways I could use my strengths. I started thinking critically about what my future life was going to look like. The electricity throughout my body was REAL and I was suddenly invigorated as I started LISTENING to myself.
Needless to say, I found that it wasn’t depression that I was experiencing; it was internal tension. I had tried pushing myself into a box that wasn’t meant to hold me forever. I had to bust out and redefine what I wanted life to look like.
Tension triggers growth
When we’re young and our baby teeth are growing in, we teethe and cry from discomfort. Our mouths are undergoing an enormous shift. As infants, it is painful and overwhelming for us to deal with this; it’s a pain we cannot make sense of.
As adults looking back on our infancy, we can see more clearly that this tension is a part of the growing process: it gives our body a necessary tool that helps us to sustain life.
We can chew, eat, enjoy food and keep our bodies fed. Seems like a pretty basic and vital step in our development, doesn’t it?
But the same could be true for the internal tension we feel as adults. The tension is usually an indication that we need to grow, shift, and undertake a necessary metamorphosis to help ourselves develop resources to make a life improvement. Our current state of comfort has become limiting and in order to push ourselves to the next level of existence, we need to feel a bit of that tension.
In my case, I had stopped listening to my internal cues for so long that my inner voice was basically throwing a tantrum. Instead of allowing myself to evolve by listening to my needs, I had shoved them down. But the funny thing about your needs is that they continue to exist even when you think they’re on “silent mode” …and someday, whether you’re ready for them or not, they will trigger an alarm to go off that is too loud to ignore.
So, what can you do about it?
Learn to embrace the tension
I’m here to tell you that, as with anything in life, if you learn to EMBRACE what is happening, you’ll see it for what it is. And once you allow yourself to see your situation clearly, the fun begins. Yes, maybe it is a bit daunting to shift your life around, but also consider this: if your body is telling you that one of the thousand opportunities that you are FORCING yourself into each day is actually not where you SHOULD be, you:
1. have learned that there is a specific part of your current life that is not suiting you; and
2. now have 999 potential OTHER opportunities that might be better for you than the situation you left behind.
Sounds like a win-win.
Had I allowed myself to listen to my body earlier, I would have noticed and acknowledged the signs of high tension. I would have understood that my job wasn’t challenging me in the ways I was hoping to be challenged and that I had made no room for MYSELF in my lifestyle.
I learned that, just like the tension we feel as infants, this too was a positive source of tension.
So, the next time you feel tension, give yourself the break you need. Breathe into it. Listen to your body. Allow yourself to see your life as a bigger picture and dream a little bit bigger than your current situation.
The need for change may be uncomfortable in the moment, but ultimately, it is the necessary breeding ground for you to develop the vigor you need. See the discomfort for what it is. Embrace it. Let it be a part of your process and express gratitude for the growth catalyst it is.
In time, you’ll look back and be able to see that you NEEDED the discomfort to force you out of something that wasn’t right for you anymore. Allow yourself to outgrow an environment that is too small for you.
Remember: we aren’t meant to stay the same forever; we are meant to grow so we can fulfill our own individual purpose.