When rubber bands are stretched to their maximum they reach their highest peaks and greatest distances.  Similar to a bow and arrow where the bow is taken back to its farthest point will yield the greatest flight for the arrow.  However, when they are stretched too far they break or are sent drastically off target.  Does this logic apply to us?  Can people, who are so complex, be compared to a rubber band or a bow which appears to be so simplistic? 

There was a time when people were placed on a device and then stretched to the point that limbs came out of sockets.  This torcher took people to a breaking point but what benefit, if any, was gained from going through it? (I’m not aware of this happening in modern families-but I know it has been discussed from time to time by parents raising teenagers).

When we shift from physical to mental stretching for people, the stretching we are referring to is more of a ‘push’ beyond mental boundaries.  Those boundaries get set through a variety of experiences where we try and avoid pain or maximize fun or joy.   For example, the barrier of ‘reading to the kids’ when we are tired and just need to ‘relax’, or working long hours when we have responsibilities of parenting, or needing to make decisions between soccer practices, games, golfing or necessary work around the house. 

Another aspect is our approach to life, when we choose to avoid being positive and optimistic because we are tired of disappointment.  So we establish barriers that prevent us from ‘getting our hopes up’.  This can lead us to describing ourselves as a ‘realist’ as a pleasant way of really allowing ourselves to be a true pessimist.

So with all the challenges of life, the difficulties with time constraints, the human frailties of health and needing a proper amount of sleep and food, how do you allow yourself to ‘stretch’ to the ‘max’, reach your peaks, and yet not break?

Think of that rubber band that may have a ‘flaw’.  Ever so slight of a ‘tear’ will lead to a rip when pulled too far and if the stretching continues, it will break right at the point of the ‘flaw’.

We must know where our own ‘flaws’ or weaknesses are and not be afraid to deal with them.  We cannot do it all:  Be active in Church, the president of the PTA, coach of our kids teams, work 60 hours a week, exercise an hour a day, play golf on the weekend, go fishing as often as we want, participant in a variety of charities, be a scoutmaster, focus on your spouse, your children, help your neighbors, keep up with the news, reply to all your twitter friends, daily updates to facebook, household chores, and on and on and on.

Reaching your potential is a ‘unique’ experience.  It needs to be something you understand.  It cannot be compared to the person sitting next to you.  Don’t get caught up in the ‘rat race’ thinking life is about beating the person next to you in the race—your ruler to measure up is your own potential and not someone else’s.

The wisdom in life comes from prioritizing among the many good decisions you can make.  To make those good decisions, you must establish your own logic on what is most important.  And as you mature that list of priorities, you will learn, either through your own experiences or those of others, that success won't come when you try to compensate the failure of item #1 by exceling in #10, #11, #12 on the list.  

Your list of priorities needs to evolve over time.  For example, when you are a teenager, priorities seem to circle around yourself and your friends.  As you mature, you seem to focus more outwardly.  As an example, for those that are religious, faith is top of the list.  For those married, it means spouse is at the top of the list.  For those with children, family is at the top of the list.  Those things at the top of the list should be complimenting each other and not conflicting. 

When conflicting priorities exist, it is as the ‘flaw’ in the rubber band and will cause a break when stretched.  For example, the life of the bachelor tends to be focused around friends, buddies and hanging out.  When you get married, you need to make adjustments.  If you don’t your flaw turns to a rip and will be breaking every weekend when you announce the ‘need’ to go out with your buddies and leave your spouse at home.

So, know your priorities and make decisions around your priorities.  When you find you are feeling stretched beyond your capacity, or unhappy, or feeling the lack of accomplishment or joy in your life-evaluate your decision making process and your priorities.   See if your decisions have been aligning with your priorities.  If they are and you are still not feeling the benefits of life, re-evaluate your priorities.   Stretch

Your thoughts?