Who helps you to grow and stretch and become a better version of yourself? Do you have someone you can count on? Someone who inspires you to more, pushes you when you feel like you’re at your limit, squeezes every last ounce of learning out of each opportunity? I realized this week that if you don’t have someone encouraging you to go further than you thought you could, you’re losing so much opportunity for growth.

It turns out this epiphany was courtesy of my fourteen-year-old daughter, Mac. The eureka moment came about 20 minutes into a family fitness class that she was leading us through in the living room #pandemiclife. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this moment came twenty minutes in. That was probably about the point when my brain disconnected from my body in a self-protective haze required to get a 48-year-old body through a fitness class led by a 14-year-old competitive dancer.)

I’ll tell you what happened, and then I encourage you to recreate this on your own living room floor so you can appreciate the full effect.

Mac: Sit in straddle position and reach your hands as far out between your toes as possible.

(are you trying it… really, try it!)

At this point, I feel quite uncomfortable. I realize that I am seriously inflexible in this direction. I should probably be stretching more than twice a year. This hurts.

Mac: Keep holding it.

I wonder how long I can hold this. The burn is painful. I’m looking around at everyone else to see how far down they are. Just how pathetic am I?

(try holding that position for about 15 seconds)

Ok… now here’s where it gets real.

Mac: Ok, now stay in that position and try to get your bellybutton to touch the floor.

Wait, what?!? First, I have to be able to conjure what my brain needs to instruct my body to do to make my bellybutton get closer to the floor. What muscles even do that? Do I have those muscles? Were they destroyed giving birth to the tiny human who is now doling out another torture?

Focus, Liane.

I create some kind of mind-muscle connection with something close enough to my bellybutton and I do as I’m told. I imagine a string pulling my bellybutton toward the ground. Holy sh!t, that is a completely new and different kind of hurt. I thought the normal straddle position was stretching me, but that was child’s play compared to the pain my child is now inflicting on me. Yikes.

(don’t you dare just read this without trying it. Do you see what I mean!?!)

Mac: Keep holding!

Sweat is starting to bead on my forehead. I am sweating while stretching, that’s embarrassing.

Mac: Ok, good.

Good? Did she say “good.” In no way that I can think of is this position, “good.” But at least I’ve done it. I’ve shown my mettle. But wait…

Mac: Now, turn your knee caps up toward the ceiling.

At least my brain understands this instruction. I order my knees to twist skyward and unlock a whole new level of agony. Bellybutton down was a cake walk compared to this!

(If you have actually hauled yourself onto the floor, cranked your legs beyond a 30 degree angle, flopped your torso over the gap, stretched your arms between your toes, pulled your bellybutton to the ground, and rotated your kneecaps toward the ceiling, you are my new hero and we must become friends.)

Mac: Good job people. We’ll get further next time.

You mean, you have to do this more than once?!?

Feeling the Stretch

So, that’s my story of enduring Mac’s stretch and strength class. I’m not telling you in hopes that you’ll call 911 and have me rescued from my captivity in this torture chamber (but that’s tempting). I’m telling you because it is such a great reminder that when you go through life doing the regular-old straddle stretch, you think you’re growing and improving, but you’re leaving most of the opportunity on the table (or the living room floor).

Where could you stretch yourself further?

Don’t just write the document and ask your boss if it’s ok, ask, “What’s one thing I could work on to make it tighter?”

Don’t just give a presentation and be glad when it’s over, seek out someone and ask, “What’s one trick you’ve learned about making presentations more compelling?”

Don’t stop when you’ve learned a new app, google the advanced tips and tricks for making it really hum.

I was really taken aback by what I learned from Mac’s exercise class and her ability to take a good stretch and make it a great one. In my work life, I’m also fortunate to have a select few friends and colleagues who: a) know the equivalent of the bellybutton and the kneecap hacks for my work as an author, speaker, and facilitator; and b) care about me enough to push me to go beyond the first stretch and seek out the second and third.

Who does that for you? If someone already is, take a moment to thank them. If no one is helping you grow this way, who could you ask? I really want to hear your stories. When did someone stretch you beyond what you thought was possible?