We talk about stress like it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s just about stretching.
Stretching and being able to have a different perspective at the same time. Leading and following. Glass half full, glass half empty. literal and exaggerated. Rapid fire versus slow and methodical. Push and pull. inputs and outputs. Individual knowledge versus collective knowledge. Consonance and dissonance. Breathe in, breathe out.
Stress is all around us. always So maybe it’s not a problem to solve but rather a stretch to manage.
For example, take the epic love story. Romance novels are often written in a dual point of view format that allows for a lot of push and pull between the hero and heroine. There are also juxtaposing ideas in the quest to win over our beloved: “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is the belief that time is good for us, while “out of sight, out of mind” is the belief of separation. Love destroys each other to win. It is the tension in the journey to win true lasting love that compels the reader to devour hundreds of pages as they gleefully anticipate.
There is a lot of stress on innovation, mainly when using human-centered design principles. Think of a Venn diagram with overlapping, competitive components of customer desirability, technical feasibility and business viability. Thousands of data points can be analyzed and reconciled before a product or service is brought to market in a way that best supports each interlocking interest. It is this tension of overlap that drives innovative mindsets.
The Tour de France is an epic example of tension. The legendary sport dates back to 1903 and brings together the best cyclists from around the world. It’s 2,200 grueling miles over 21 stages, including time trials, routes over ancient boulders, and climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. Highly skilled riders specialize in roles known as sprinters, climbers, time-trialers, punchers and domestics. Worldwide we live-stream the event at all hours of the day and night, allowing riders to compete – or worse, watch the crash. We cheer for breakaway riders and marvel at the pulse of the peloton. For the cycling world, it is the most iconic event depicting the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Run, eat, recover, repeat is the mantra each year for the 176 starting riders trying to make a name for themselves and their teams. The entire event is a tactical masterpiece – competing for time, points and jerseys – and is filled with nothing but tension.
Music lives in the conflict of consonance and dissonance. The consonance is melodious and pleasing to the ears. At the same time, dissonance—notes that don’t seem like they go together—gives a jarring, harsh, unpleasant sound sensation and evokes a sense of dissonance. Dissonant sounds create dissonance, and musicians use this dissonance to impart a “sense of urgency” to the music. In many musical scores, the tension will resolve in a few short measures after the tension is felt. So why create tension that needs to be resolved? Because it forces you to listen differently, to experience music more visually.
Finally, there is popularity and uniqueness. One of the most difficult internal stresses is the desire to fit in and stand out.
Most of our social ills live in a constant state of tension, and we naturally want to see that friction resolved. While we may not know how to do this immediately, the tension—the push and pull, the overlap, the competition, the dissonance—forces us to pay attention and engage differently. And that can’t possibly be a bad thing.
There is tension everywhere. It never goes away. Embrace the stretch.
Stacey is the founder of Mason Improvement Laboratory, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information is available by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.