Contributed by Betsy Butterick - Founding Partner of Success for Teams and The Coaches Coach & Communication Specialist at Butterick Creative Consulting
You always remember your first time.
The first time you forgot to tie the strings together before throwing pants into the laundry only to have them emerge with the drawstring sucked irretrievably into the waistband.
For years I’ve been tying my strings in a simple knot to prevent just this sort of madness. The loop is easy to tie and just as easy to undo – one tug on both strings and ta-daaa, no more knot. A few weeks ago I was putting laundry away and tugged on the strings of my favorite yoga pants. The knot didn’t budge, so I did what we all do and pulled harder.
I was suddenly faced with the Fort Knox of knots. Stubbornly tiny and tight, I realized I would knot be wearing my awesome pants anytime soon and sighed in frustration as I tossed them into the drawer.
Over the next week I probably pulled those pants out three or four times only to remember the knot and toss them back into the drawer. I was always rushing to get dressed or just didn’t want to get into what I was sure would be a long, epic battle with my tiny nemesis.
The day I finally grabbed some tweezers and turned my attention to the knot I was shocked that it took less than a minute to undo. I laughed as the metaphoric lessons flooded in…
I thought about how often we try and fix things with force; we pull harder, try harder, or give greater effort when a more gentle approach is what’s needed.
I wondered how often we let little things hold us back from what we want. I let a tiny knot keep me from putting on my awesome pants. I just kept tossing the pants back in the drawer instead of meeting the problem head on.
I kept tossing the pants back in the drawer because I thought the process of undoing the knot would be difficult and time-consuming. I had other pants I could wear, and so I avoided the knot again and again because in the moment it was easier to simply choose something else.
I thought about often we allow ourselves to stay stuck instead of doing the work to fix whatever is holding us back. It took tweezers and a few moments of attentiveness and patience to get back into my favorite pants. I dreaded having to undo a tiny knot when bigger things like jobs, and relationships, and limiting beliefs about ourselves are the really important things that can keep us stuck for years.
I realized, however, that no matter the complexity of our knots the process of undoing is the same; we need tools, attention, and time. Undoing can be painful. It can be frustrating. It can seem so challenging that choosing other things becomes the easy way to navigate around doing the work it would take to get free.
Yet as daunting as it may seem, if acquiring the right tools and giving whatever has you knotted up the time and attention required gets you back into your awesome pants - well, I’d argue that’s worth it every time.