Dynamic Tension

We humans don’t like tension – unless we are at a sporting event or a movie, in which case we know that the tension will be resolved by the end.  But the capacity to engage, hold and utilize tension is a critical capability of a Creator.

Dynamic Tension is built on the work of Robert Fritz’s description of “structural tension” and serves as both an action planning process, as well as a way of working with everyday issues and opportunities.

To suggest that we must learn to hold the tension as a Creator is definitely “counter-cultural” in our quick fix—”relieve the pain” society, which longs for smooth sailing in life.

When tension arises, we often look to resolve and rid ourselves of any uneasy feelings. This can easily engage the players in the drama triangleRescuers may jump at the first solution to fix the situation, all under the heading of being helpful.  Persecutors will find a way to compete, blame or be right in order to control the tension.  Faced with tension, people with a victim mentality will give up easily believing they won’t get what they want.

In The Power of TED*, the tension we consciously engage is in the gap between what we want (Vision/Outcome) and an honest assessment of what we really have (Current Reality).  Try this exercise: stretch a rubber band between the index fingers of both hands. On the left hand is your current reality. Now envision what you want to have and move the right hand away from the left, stretching the rubber band in the process. This is dynamic tension.

As we engage the tension between possibility and reality, it is important to tell the truth about the current reality – seeing it for what it is and in its fullness.  We identify and affirm those aspects of current reality that support or are helpful in creating the envisioned outcome.  In turn, we also identify problems or obstacles that are inhibiting our progress toward the outcome.

As we hold this Dynamic Tension between vision and current reality, we explore alternative actions – possible Baby Steps – we might take, which may include:

  • keep focused on and leveraging what supports us;
  • stop doing what is within our control that thwarts our efforts (like the self-talk that says “it’s not possible”);
  • change or do differently something that currently exists that will further our progress; and/or
  • start doing or attending to aspects of the vision that we have not been focusing upon.

From these options, we then commit to a few “Baby Steps” which will begin to resolve the tension by progressing from current reality toward the envisioned outcome.

By learning to hold the Dynamic Tension in the gap between envisioned outcomes and current realities – and then taking Baby Steps – we will grow in our capacity as a Creator in our personal and professional lives. Each Baby Step we take will produce one of three results: 1) forward progress; 2) a mistake or step back from which we can learn and adjust; or 3) a quantum leap or breakthrough that would not have happened had we not taken the step!