NPR has a new series entitled “Stretched” that investigates the lives of working parents in today’s world. As you can imagine, the pervading theme in their stories is the exhaustion of being responsible for too many things and feeling stretched beyond their limits.
I heard Wednesday’s episode while driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to yoga training in Encinitas. North County San Diego is similar to the Bay Bridge and the 405 in Orange County, in that after 3:30pm you are screwed and might as well resign yourself to an hour commute (or more) to get anywhere… It seems that today, getting somewhere is yet another commitment of time and planning.
This particular episode was interviewing female military personnel. The military has experienced astounding attrition of talented female personnel due to the demands of the job and the absolute inability to manage it with family life. In response, they are now a leading force for maternity leave policy and have introduced flexible work schedules and an enforced cap on working hours in order to retain good talent by creating balance in the workplace. After all, it costs more to lose good people and hire new than it does to respect, honor and work with the ones already on board in order to meet their needs.
Yes! Couldn’t we all use a little more time to balance our schedules and a little less pressure from work to outperform what is humanly possible? As the results of this shift in the military’s management style continue to prove that people perform better and remain loyal when they are given the choice to live outside of work, perhaps other companies will follow suit.
The bigger lesson is the difference between stretching to succeed and feeling stretched succeeding. Stretching is when you reach the limits of your body and then pull back slightly to prevent injury; it the place in a yoga pose where we try to find simultaneous release, effort and enjoyment. Being stretched is when you have lost control of your body and have pushed it to exhaustion; it is when we develop a repeated stress injury in the body due to misuse and misalignment. The difference between the two is strength in challenge vs collapse under pressure. Only you know your breaking point.