Building Mastery in Stretching Limits

It was Saturday afternoon. I had just finished eating a late breakfast as I moved to the couch with the firm intention of lounging, reading, and recuperating after a long week when I got the text.

Building Mastery in Stretching Limits

“The vet will be here by 2pm, come by as soon as you can.”

My heart sank as my eyes welled up.

Walter the Dog’s time had come. And so much sooner than expected! Walter belonged to my friends, Elliot and Maddie. As Walter neared age 14, his health had gone into rapid decline; his ability to walk and move on his own was entirely gone, and most recently he’d shown signs of internal bleeding. I had plans to be there with them for the scheduled appointment to euthanize him on Monday. Now, hearing that the time had been radically moved up, I knew things had taken a turn.

I looked to the clock- 12:48pm and I was still in my pajamas. If I wanted to arrive before the vet, I needed to leave now!

Emotion Mind said, “It’s too sad, I just want to go back to sleep. I can’t handle it.”

My Wise Mind whispered in response, “this is important; stretch your limits.”

I took a moment to breathe and let my head hang down, validating my desire to avoid this uncomfortable feeling, before jumping into action.

It was a long ride there. I did my best to one-mindfully listen to music rather than try and predict how the rest of the day would unfold. As we pulled up to the house, 10 minutes before 2, my boyfriend exhaled long and slow and said, “This is going to be uncomfortable.”

“Yes, it is,” I confirmed. “And we can do it.”

New Years Resolutions DBT Style

When I was first envisioning what my New Year Building Mastery practice would look like, let me tell you, it did NOT include these weekend plans.

Building Mastery is like the DBT alternative to a New Years Resolution.

Here’s a metaphor- if a New Years Resolution says, “This year I’m going to climb that mountain,”

Building Mastery says, “I’m going to take consistent, small steps towards the peak. I don’t know if I’ll get there! But each day, I’m getting closer to it and feeling all the more competent and capable along the way as I reflect on how far I’ve come.”

You can Build Mastery in anything at all! There are 4 tenets to Building Mastery:

  1. Plan on doing at least one thing each day to build a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Plan for success, not failure.
  3. Gradually increase the difficulty over time.
  4. Look for a challenge.

I chose to Build Mastery in the idea of Stretching Limits because, as 2021 came to a close, I noticed a rigidity growing in my life in my behaviors and my thoughts. I wasn’t engaging in my hobbies as much, I was turning down plans with friends, I was cooking less, I wasn’t willing to change my work schedule. When presented with opportunities I let the thoughts, “I don’t have the time,” or “I don’t have the energy,” decide what I did and I lost out because of it.

The idea is to start where you’re at and push yourself in the direction you’re trying to go.

If it’s too challenging, scale back on the request you’re making of yourself- simplify.

If it’s too easy, get out of your comfort zone and look for the next challenge.

Keep pushing until you’re amazed at how far you’ve come!

I decided to Build Mastery in noticing what I thought I was incapable of doing, and asking myself to do just a little bit more, i.e.. “stretching limits:”

  • Increasing the length of my workout
  • Cooking, rather than getting takeout
  • Increasing the amount of available slots I have for appointments
  • Increasing my patience with loved ones.
  • Increasing the time I spend on art projects, even when I have to do them in the chilly garage- that’s stretching limits too!

It’s not each of these things every day! But at least one. More as I feel capable.

Each day of the week leading up to Walter’s Saturday vet appointment, I built mastery in stretching some limit of mine. And by the end of the week, I felt accomplished, proud, and tired.

I was so ready to not stretch any more limits, just ready to stretch out on the couch!

When I got that text, however, even though I was tired, sad and scared for what was about to happen….in my Wise Mind there was no doubt that I could handle it. That I could stretch my limits of what felt possible, and show up for whatever was happening in the present moment. Show up for Walter, Show up for Elliot and Maddie.

My relationships with my friends and with myself are stronger for having done so.

DBT of South Jersey media

Stay In The DBT SJ Loop!

Get all our updates, free events and workshops and DBT Tips in one beautifully curated place by subscribing to our email list!

We only send about once a month, so we don’t overwhelm your inbox! 😉

Welcome to DBT of South Jersey – we’re glad you’re here.

Subscription Form