A colleague of mine recently brought in a collection of beloved children’s books to share with another co-worker.  It was wisely suggested that I intercept The Mitten before the exchange was completed.

The Mitten, as retold by Jim Aylesworth, is a delightful tale of a young boy who loses a red mitten while out sledding.  A squirrel comes upon it, and, because his “toes are as cold as ice,” decides to make the mitten his bed.  Soon a rabbit appears on the scene, also with frozen toes, and the squirrel squeezes together to make room for two.  Next a cold fox arrives, and soon they have stretched and wiggled enough to make room for all three to be warm inside the mitten. Just as they are getting comfortable, a bear begs to be allowed inside the mitten, and they squish together to accommodate all four.  Finally a little mouse asks for space to warm his frozen toes, and they acquiesce. Only as the mouse climbs in, the mitten explodes and all are left without a cozy place to warm their toes.

I think The Mitten is an apt metaphor for the stress we can absorb in life.  It is not really a problem to make accommodations for small stressors (a squirrel, rabbit and fox).  We can also make enough adjustments in our life to persist after a major stress (the bear). But often it is the smaller stressors — the one more thing — that causes the eruption.  Our tolerance, like the mitten, can only go so far before it bursts.

Think about the mitten the next time you take on another obligation or withhold another aggravation.  After you make the squirrel, rabbit, fox and bear cozy, will there be any more room to handle the inevitable mouse when he comes along?

— beth triplett

The Mitten, retold by Jim Aylesworth, Scholastic Press, 2009
Thanks to Amy for sharing

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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