In a workshop on resilience, Dr. Jasmine Zapata gave each of the participants a handful of rubber bands and asked us to conduct a “scientific experiment” to list 7 observations about the elastic tools. In addition to the obvious such as they stretch and return or were different sizes and colors, the group generated quite a list, including:

  • If you stretch it over and over, it gets easier to stretch
  • It is malleable to any shape that you want
  • When you double or triple them, they become harder to stretch
  • They hold things together, yet can “fly” – they hold/store energy
  • They make a distinctive noise
  • They have not changed much in decades
  • They are separate but can easily be connected

After this experiment, we related these characteristics to resilience in humans – and many of the characteristics hold true. People have the ability to stretch and become stressed, yet are able to return to their original shape only to be stretched again. If you stretch something too far it may break, but can often be tied back together to continue on. People – like rubber bands – handle their flexibility differently – some are weaker and some are stronger but all have the ability to stretch.

Two takeaways from the workshop: 1) give yourself credit for the resilience that is part of you, just as it is inherent in the rubber bands and 2) whether using rubber bands specifically or another set of items, the “scientific experiment” is a useful teaching technique that causes participants to look at something ordinary in a whole new light.

The next time you’re facing a stressful situation, act like a rubber band where the tension is just temporary before you return to your original shape.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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