Do you have Stretch? – Part 3

Now that you’ve got a sense of what it takes to be a successful stretcher, it’s time for another important lesson: how to avoid overstretching. Without this knowledge about how to keep yourself in check, you’ll risk injuring yourself or others. To stay safe, just avoid these common mistakes:

The first way that people tend to overstretch is by becoming a cheapskate. For instance, while carefully managing your resources is key to being a stretcher, there’s a limit to how far you can go. Remember, the difference between being economical and being a cheapskate is that the former saves to invest in something meaningful while the latter is scared of spending any money at all.

The second risk is that of spreading yourself too thin or looking in too many directions at once. To avoid going down paths that have nothing to offer, you should make your career your number-one priority. Become a specialist in your field and learn everything you can about it. Once you’ve established that base, you can begin exploring new ideas.

Third, keep in mind that changes can often be helpful, but only after you’ve properly analyzed the past. Without this reflection, you risk leaping without learning. In other words, failure is a great way to learn, but only if you properly consider what went wrong. For instance, if your business goes bankrupt, you should certainly prepare to found a new one, but only after you understand why your first attempt went belly up.

Fourth, while you know now that having high expectations can foster confidence and courage, having unrealistically high expectations is a recipe for disaster. Nobody expects to run a marathon after their first jog, so be realistic about your goals. Otherwise, you’ll risk disappointment at every turn, no matter how much you succeed.

And, finally, when mixing up your routine, make sure that you strike a balance between novelty and usefulness. Without a good mix of the two, you’ll be in danger of producing a toxic mixture that will kill innovation.

As people age, they start to learn that working out is necessary to avoid injuries, and the same goes for stretchers. But instead of hitting the gym, the ticket here is to work on balance, specifically between your existing resources and your exploration of new things.

Look around and identify the resources you have at your disposal but haven’t used. This can turn up all kinds of gems. For instance, a recent Indiana University study found that the most important scientific papers were “sleeping beauties,” papers that were published but forgotten.

Identifying your own sleeping beauties is crucial. You’ve got to ask the right question, namely, what personal resources, skills, connections or ideas have you left unused? Make a list of all these resources along with their potential to help you advance an objective and you’ll have a good sense of where to focus.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to explore new things. Just set aside a few hours each week to read something new, go to a workshop or spend time working with new colleagues. You never know what kind of ideas you’ll stumble upon.

But flexing those balancing muscles won’t be effective if you don’t also take breaks to be grateful for all the hard work you’ve done. After all, too much concentration can be a disaster for creativity.

If you feel overwhelmed by your work, you should take a breather. Get out of the office. Spend some casual time with a client. Take an afternoon stroll. This last one is great because it’s simple and effective. A group of Stanford University psychologists even found that people who take a walk during their breaks are 81 percent more efficient compared to those who sit.

Another great way to decompress is by spending time reflecting on what you’re grateful for. This can be as simple as setting aside time once a week to write down five things in your life that make you feel gratitude. This will help you see the overall picture, and remind you what it is you’re stretching toward.

You have all the resources you need to be successful right in front of you, it’s just a matter of identifying and prioritizing them. So, rather than chasing after what other people have, focus on what you’ve got and expand from there. Look at things like a newcomer, beware the pitfalls of planning, get creative with your routine, be sure not to overstretch and engage in some mental workouts. And when you need a breather, remember what you’re grateful for.

Check out my related post: Do you have the long view?

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