I recently had an “a-ha!” moment in my own life and realized that the lovely and well-intentioned thought of “Just one step at a time” was keeping me stuck. It was also keeping me blind from seeing where all the gold really was.
That’s what I’m going to talk about in today’s tiny talk. There’s this place called “the stretch” and you definitely don’t want to miss it.
For most of my life, I’ve been super focused on the result, the end goal, getting to the finish line, the next milestone, the next rung on the ladder. Taking it “one step at a time” but focusing so much on just getting to that step as quickly as possible. So much so, that I completely ignored and rushed past the spaces in between the steps.
Sometimes I would skip steps altogether only to face a monster that was so big, I would run all the way back to a previous step, or sometimes even further if the monster was scary enough.
The place between these steps is called “the stretch.”
It’s in the stretch where all the joy, hope, fear, scary things, amazing things, and opportunity can be found. It’s where the best relationships are built; it’s where we swap old beliefs for new ones.
It’s also where it can get extremely awkward and super uncomfortable.
In the stretch, you get to practice and hone your skills until what is clumsy, painful, and uncomfortable becomes normal and you’re ready to take your bow. You’re then ready to move on to the next step and the next set of adventures that move you toward your ultimate goal.
In the stretch, everything you need to make it successfully to the next step awaits you.
So, we want to focus our attention on the stretch between the steps. Spend some time there and find all the treasures and tools that are going to help you go the distance. Refuse to rush through and instead, choose to live in it.
If you do rush through to the next step, you will have missed that very important skill, that connection, that thought or habit that needs to be upgraded, that wonderful relationship or experience that will inspire you, the opportunity that could propel you into something you never dreamed possible.
In the rush to the top, we also end up slowing ourselves down because when we get to the next rung, we often can’t handle the discomfort that comes with it, so we end up self-sabotaging or falling back to where we started, or maybe even running back, searching for the thing we missed.
The key to the stretch is to live in it, to stay grounded in the practice and discomfort until we start to feel it become too comfortable.
The best way I have heard this described is in the idea that everyone’s brain has its own thermostat which governs the capacity to have or achieve what we want. The brain always seeks to be comfortable.
You can think of it like this: If someone opens your front door on a winter day and leaves it open, you’re going to get uncomfortable. Your house’s thermostat is going to kick on and bring it back to whatever temperature you have it set for – the temperature you’re comfortable with. This whole process is automatic these days.
Your brain is like your home’s thermostat and will always try to keep you at the level at which it’s comfortable. It’s why many of us writers don’t finish scripts, don’t market scripts, don’t enter contests, don’t share our work with others, don’t attempt to elevate our work or create relationships.
All of that can be very uncomfortable because your brain is on autopilot and always wants to retreat back into what is most comfortable.
How do you embrace the stretch?
You have to consciously spend time in the uncomfortable.
You know those video games where you go on an adventure, and pick up gold coins along the way, then you run into a little monster and have to slay him before he slays you? The further you go, the more skill you acquire, the bigger the rewards…but also, the bigger the dragons.
Living in the stretch is not a lot different. You practice and practice until you get competent at slaying the dragon, and then go on to your next big adventure.
Stay in the stretch until it becomes comfortable. That is when you know you’re ready to move to the next rung. You’re feeling a little too comfy.
Instead of flying through all the things, trying to cheat or finding hacks to go faster, learn to be okay with getting really uncomfortable – it’s the fastest way through, in all reality.
While you’re in the stretch, you want to pay attention to the thoughts you are having. Notice the mind chatter and ask yourself a few questions:
- What thoughts are you having?
- Are these thoughts possibly holding you back?
- Where are you getting stuck?
- How are you applying the things you’re learning?
- Who might you connect with in this stretch to help you to the next level?
Really take on the stretch, live in it, see what it’s trying to teach you and how you can grow.
There is also lots of fun to be had in the stretch. Breakthroughs, new relationships, new mentors, new ideas…so much goodness to be found here. It’s not all discomfort and dragon slaying. You don’t want to miss any of it.
How do you grow more comfortable in the stretch?
Live in the practice until you become comfortable in it.
Study the works of those who came before you in whatever it is you’re struggling with.
Ask yourself lots of questions and challenge your brain to start creating new beliefs about yourself that are going to serve you and move you forward.
If in the stretch you find yourself thinking you’re not good enough, too old, or whatever it is, challenge those thoughts and find better ones. If you don’t, you’re going to get to the next step and self-sabotage, get knocked back a few steps, or worse, give up.
Living in the stretch will slowly adjust the thermostat on your brain’s comfort level, but only if you consciously direct it to do so.
I’ll end this tiny talk with this great quote from Bruce Lipton. It’s kind of mind-blowing how robotic we humans can be.
“The function of the mind is to create coherence between our beliefs and the reality we experience. We generally perceive that we are running our lives with our wishes and our desires. But neuroscience reveals a startling fact.
We only run our lives with our creative, conscious mind about five percent of the time. Ninety-five percent of the time, our life is controlled by the beliefs and habits that are programmed in the subconscious mind.”
We say we want one thing, but we’re actually programmed to think a certain way that is probably different.
The solution is to increase the amount of time we run our lives from our creative conscious mind, and we do this by purposely living into the stretch, not trying to rush through it.
Get curious about everything in the stretch; it’s all there to serve and grow you, and remember, it’s also where the most joy and most wonderful breakthroughs happen. Intentionally get uncomfortable until you get really good at slaying that dragon, then pick up all your bonus points, have a village farewell party, and move on to the next ladder rung.
There is no rush.
Here are some self-coaching questions you can ask yourself while in the stretch:
- When I think about getting to the next milestone, at what point do I get really uncomfortable?
- What thoughts are creating discomfort for me about reaching my goal?
- Are those thoughts serving me?
- What other thoughts can I think that would serve me better?
- What keeps me from being comfortable with this skill?
- What specific steps can I take to increase my comfort level with where I am right now?
- What skills do I need to pick up in this stretch?
- Am I practicing these skills or just thinking about them intellectually?
- Is there someone who can help me find some of my blind spots – a mentor, friend, coach?
Ready to get on the playing field? As a creative life coach and screenwriter, I can help you take your idea from concept to final draft so you can finally get your work out into the world where it belongs. Book a free consultation and find out how we can work together.