The Art of Turning Tension into Power

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Growing up in Minnesota, I spent my summers on the lake. Some of my favorite memories are of being pulled on an inner tube behind a boat — the smell of gas from the boat’s engine, the smooth-as-glass water and the initial thrust on the tow rope as the boat lurched my tube forward. To me, that’s summer.

What I learned from those picturesque summers (other than which uncle you didn’t want driving the boat), was the power a taut rope has. Or, in other words, the potential energy that comes with a little tension.

THE POSITIVE SIDE OF TENSION

It sounds counterintuitive, but there is so much potential in your tension. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is so much power in your pain. Just like the tension in a towrope can pull a bunch of giggling kids over water, the tension in your life can actually be a catalyst toward your happiest moments.

We can all recall a moment in our lives where tension hit us like the initial thrust on a boat’s tow rope — a common example is one of receiving bad news. We all experience our own “tow line jerks,” as I call them. These momentary bursts of energy can either send us sailing into the water, dumbfounded and shook up, or they can catapult us on the ride of our lives.

How you react to these energy shocks is what’s known as your positioning. Your potential in life is all about where you have positioned yourself. Which brings me to the real takeaway of this article: the three positions of turning tension into power.

 

POSITION 1: LOCATING

The first step in using tension for power is locating the tension. Just like if my head hurt I would tell you I had a headache. If all my energy is going toward a career path I don’t really enjoy, I might say the location of tension is my career choice. Unnamed tension and stress is like an alarm clock, it continues to ring and ring and ring until you stop hitting snooze and finally wake up to it.

POSITION 2: LEARNING

Once that rope snaps tight and your tube lurches forward in the water, you’re not out of the water yet (pun intended). The same boat that pulls your tube throws off a wake behind it — in the center of the wake, there’s peaceful water just like the eye of a storm. But, the second the boat turns, the tube is thrown outside of the wake into rough water. This is the key to position 2: if you have learned how to use the tension in the rope, you can maneuver your way back into the safe zone that is the wake. The driver of the boat and the waves that come at you are all out of your control. But, your skillset is something you have the ability to build. The tension in the rope that almost threw you off when the engine revved forward is the same tension you can now use to get into the position you want to be in.

The next time something small bothers you or adds tension to your rope, like someone cutting you off in traffic, use it as a moment to learn your triggers and build your peaceful skillset. Small moments of training yourself will help you understand how to use your rope when you’re thrown into rough water.


POSITION 3: LEAVING

Of all the wonderful memories I have tubing, one not so pleasant one is the ache in my hands and arms after riding around the lake too long. This brings us to the final position: learning when and what to leave behind.

Once you begin to learn and understand your tension and pain, you come to a crossroads. You begin to see that there are people in your life, attitudes and beliefs you’ve been protecting but they keep pulling you out of your peaceful wake. If you do not let these people or things go, you will continue to encounter rough water.

Along with locating and learning comes accepting responsibility for the part you may have played in creating it. Shedding things that no longer serve you is hard, but the less weight you carry, the freer you will be.

The tricky part about the power in your tension is it doesn’t get easier immediately. It’s not an instantaneous sensation. That’s often why most people stay stuck. Nothing is permanent, which means just because you’ve progressed through all three positions once doesn’t mean you can’t get thrown back to position 1. It’s all a process. There is no permanence; there is no finality. In creating your positioning and using your tension — but by going through the process and opening up to the possibilities — there will be moments of smooth water that lead up to the ride of a lifetime.

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