Stretching from a fixed point

Elastics stretch from a fixed point.

I don’t understand much about physics, but I know from experience that if all parts of an elastic are in motion simultaneously, stretching isn’t happening. And elastics are made to stretch.

This metaphor might resonate for you when you consider the past 20 months – at times all the parts have been moving at once, so you haven’t been able to respond well.

To adapt, we need some things not to change.

What are the fixed points for you?

Existentially, we need to know our values and purpose don’t change with circumstances. Nimble people have certainty in those areas.

Practically, the same is also true. I can be very responsive if I understand the parameters. If there are no ‘givens’ or constraints, I’ll flounder.

Transitioning to hybrid meetings has been a great recent example of this in my practice. I’ve used the past few months to experiment with hybrid facilitation. It’s been messy, but it’s leading me toward greater clarity about what my non-negotiables are and the elements around which I will flex. Those two lists read very differently now than they did two years ago, when admittedly I would have said, “I don’t do hybrid.” Now, I’m transitioning to “I’ll do hybrid under the following conditions…” and the challenge of the past few months has been to figure out what those conditions are, and how firm I am about them.

Adaptability doesn’t mean being ok with change of any kind in any amount at any time, thankfully. It’s more about knowing what’s fixed and what’s variable.

2 Replies to “Stretching from a fixed point”

  1. I love this analogy. The last couple years have been hard with constantly adapting to shifting pandemic realities. It has helped greatly that we started out in March 2020, the first day we had to close our school, by naming guiding principles for how we would work and make decisions during the pandemic. I still refer back to this at times, especially when we need to refocus on caring for our people. One of the things I’m most proud of is how we have cared for our employees. This has helped them to do their work, care for students’ wellbeing, and care for themselves and their families. We have definitely been stretched, but remain grounded by what is most important. And it’s been much easier because we clearly named and frequently revisit our guiding principles, the fixed point that allows us to stretch.

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