Recognizing that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing your life.” – Deborah Day.

    Taking stock is a key step to launching out into something new. Abraham Maslow says that, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”

    A man stood at the edge of the cliff with his parachute in hand. “Should I head back or take the leap?” he quizzed himself. Should we head back to comfort or stretch out towards something new? Many of us are like this man, weighing in on whether to settle back into the satisfying and normal way of life or take action to wade into newer territories or at the least expand our ‘normal’, sphere of work.

    Which option will you take?

    Stretch

    To stretch means to extend or lengthen something beyond its normal length. One of the easiest illustrations of an item that can stretch is the elastic band. For the band to be able to stretch means it has the ability to do just that. Once it is taut, it can go no further. Any extra exertion would cause it to break. At the first attempt of stretching out like this, it would most likely resist the pressure and go right back to its previous state unless the process of stretching is consistent and repetitive. Consistency, as we know, beats talent or genius any day.

    Apart from physically stretching yourself, you can stretch in the areas of your mindset (thought patterns and perspectives) and your attitude. You must be ready to unlearn certain attitudes and re-learn new ones.

    How can we grow?

    There is some discomfort with every form of growth. If the elastic band could speak, I daresay it would loudly protest while being stretched. The man at the edge of the cliff is not at ease as he readies himself to jump off the cliff. The same kind of emotion is exhibited when we need to stretch ourselves for or into something new.

    1. First, confront yourself and decide on how you intend to grow. “Am I going forward or am I heading in a completely new direction? Would I rather enjoy my comfort zone as it is or stretch and make it bigger, better and larger?” Oprah Winfrey says, “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
    2. Spell it out clearly by writing your decision(s) and action plans down. You can also represent it artistically or in any way that encourages or compels you to keep working at it.
    3. Be accountable to someone. Decide to bare it all out to someone who will encourage your desire for growth. This person can also offer key advice and guidance as you open up to them. Be ready for criticism and take it well.
    4. Take action in small, incremental but consistent steps and celebrate yourself when you do.
    5. Deal with the self-doubt, second-guessing yourself and fear. Carrie Fisher says, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
    6. Acknowledge and accept that challenges are part of stretching and growth and they are there to be overcome. They make the journey exciting. “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they are supposed to help you discover who you are.” – Bernice Johnson Reagon. These challenges certainly include failure.

    Conclusion

    Remember that though growth comes with discomfort and unease, it is short-lived. However, you do not go back to the same state in which you were when you started to stretch. The growth is forever so go ahead and s-t-r-e-t-c-h out!

    “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

    Freda Abah-Dakou