We are conditioned to believe stress and tension are bad for us and when taken to extreme lengths, they unquestionably are, but what about the tension essential for success? Some people believe stress and tension to be the same thing, but when looking at them separately, they’re not. Stress has negative connotations and we all know how it feels; it brings on exhaustion, frustration, unhappiness and despondency. Tension can also be viewed the same way, but is also different in subtle ways; it can propel us forward and act as an impetus to action. Tension is not always a negative feeling; we can use it to help us achieve our goals.

For instance, a boat without a drawn sail floats along without harnessing the wind’s force to give it direction and keep it on track. If the sail is slack and allowed to merely flap against the breeze, if there is no tension in the sail, it will be of little help. The boat will lose direction and may sail off course. Tension is required so the boat can reach its destination. Our goals are similar; we need a little bit of tension to move us forward, to keep us steering our course and to eventually reach our destination.

A constant state of relaxation is not ideal; if gone unchecked it can develop into a state of atrophy. We begin to sit back, without taking responsibility for the way our lives unfold.  We begin to be passive participants in the world instead of active participants. It may even lead to feelings of complacency and we begin to take the important things for granted.

Often, entertainers discuss their nervousness and anxiety, the tension they experience before they perform. Many of them, even after decades of being in show business, still feel tense before walking on stage. A lot of them welcome the experience, citing it as essential for a good show; the tension they experience is not a negative sensation, it highlights the excitement and importance of their job for them and without it, they would feel sceptical as to why they were doing it in the first place. The tension backstage resembles a highly charged energy, one that uplifts the atmosphere.

Not all tension is negative. There are circumstances and situations where a little tension is desirable in achieving goals. So, how do we learn to harness the positive energy of tension without falling into the trap of becoming stressed? Once again, it boils down to keeping our emotions in balance; in becoming conscious of our thoughts and recognising when we are leaning towards stress.

It helps to see the benefits of all our emotions, in this case, the benefits of tension. Even the so-called negative states have a gift buried within them, if we are aware enough to look closer. It means looking and thinking about things differently; switching viewpoints and changing attitudes. Sometimes our boats do run off course for various reasons; due to others, due to circumstances, or due to ourselves. If we are the reason we have not reached our destination, if we have been lazy or disinterested, then we are in an ideal position to change it.