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The Importance of Holding Tension and How to Hold More…

During my senior year in college, studying Social Entrepreneurship, I had a professor who posed a question that continues to irritate and inspire me to this day. 

You know the kind of question where the teacher has an answer in mind and the students keep yelling out their “educated” guesses but never quite hit on it. They sit back with their arms crossed with a smug little smirk on their face, waiting for an answer the students will never be able to give. All their studies, knowledge, and work will never be enough to solve the problem, because they need wisdom and experience to find it.

We were asked, “What is the single most important attribute a successful social entrepreneur has?” We said everything from compassion, to social awareness, to creative problem solving, to innovative critical thinking, to extensive networking, to access to resources, to lucky intuition, and more… None were “right”.

I can still hear my professor's voice when he broke the silence after we had all racked our brains for more answers. He said a simple one syllable word that is so basic, so rudimentary, it’s almost frustrating.


My brain literally couldn’t accept that as the answer. My ears refused to hear it, as I blurted out, “WHAT?”

The following 89 minutes of our class transpired with our professor explaining how none of our degrees, our brilliance, our backing, our budgets could give us this distinguishing factor. We’d only learn it through trying, failing, getting back up, and doing it over and over again; all the while refusing to accept the reality others try to impose on us to achieve a vision that has never before been realized. Through our own experience we’d have to learn to develop grit that enables us to be resilient and work through adversity.

Years later, I’m discovering how important it is to develop grit through routines that intentionally engage tension. This has helped me face harder, more pressing, risky situations, and possess that distinguishing factor for success.

As people with heart, mind, soul, and body, we have four different approaches to help build our ability to hold tension to increase our grit. Holding tension means you work to connect with both sides. You see and validate paradoxes. You choose to live the hard and simple life, over the easy and complicated.

Whether we engage in holding tension with our body, our mind, our heart, or our soul, any intentional work we do to hold tension, affects all areas of our Being.

#BridgingTheGaps is a phrase I’ve been writing about for awhile. It refers to being connected within ourselves a