We talk about stress like it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s just a stretch.
Stretching and the ability to hold different points of view simultaneously. Leading and following. Glass half full, glass half empty. Literal and exaggerated. Rapid fire vs. slow and methodical. Push and pull. Inputs and outputs. Individual knowledge versus collective knowledge. Consonance and dissonance. Inhale Exhale.
There is tension all around us. The whole time. So perhaps this is not a problem to be solved, but rather an area to be managed.
Take the epic love story for example. Romance novels are often written in a dual-point-of-view format, which allows for a lot of pushing and pulling between the hero and heroine. There are even contrasting views on the quest to conquer a loved one: “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is the belief that time spent apart is good for us, while “out of sight, out of mind” is the belief that to be separated from one another is fatal to conquering love. The suspense of the journey to winning true lasting love is what compels the reader to devour hundreds of pages while waiting for the happily ever after.
There is a lot of tension in innovation, especially when using human-centered design principles. Think of a Venn diagram with overlapping, competing components of desired customers, technical feasibility, and business viability. Thousands of data points can be analyzed and reconciled before the product or service reaches the market in a way that best supports each interrelated interest. The tension of overlap is what drives innovative thinking.
The Tour de France is an epic example of tension. The legendary sport dates back to 1903 and brings together the greatest cyclists from around the world. That’s 2,200 grueling miles in 21 stages, including time trials, ancient cobblestone routes and mountain climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. Highly skilled riders specialize in roles known as sprinters, climbers, time trialists, strokers and domestics. Globally, we live stream the event at all hours of the day and night to watch racers race – or worse, crash. We welcome breakaway riders and admire the pulse of the Peloton. For the world of cycling, it is the most iconic event, illustrating the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Compete, eat, recover, repeat is the mantra for 176 start-ups each year trying to make a name for themselves and their team. The entire event is a strategic masterpiece — a race for time, points and jerseys — and nothing but suspense.
Music lives in the conflict between consonance and dissonance. The consonance is harmonious and pleasing to the ear. At the same time, dissonance – notes that don’t sound like they go together – creates a jarring, harsh, unpleasant sound sensation and evokes a sense of disharmony. Dissonant sounds create anxiety, and composers use this disharmony to give the music a “sense of urgency.” In most musical scores, the tension will be resolved in a few short bars once the tension is felt. So why create tension that needs to be resolved? Because it forces you to listen in a different way, to experience the music more intuitively.
Finally, there is popularity and uniqueness. The strongest internal tension is the human 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 this friction resolved. Although 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 be a bad thing.
There is tension everywhere. It will never go away. Embrace the stretch h.
Stacey Mason is the founder of The Enhancement Lab, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information can be obtained by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.