If you’ve spent a lot of time near water, you’ve probably experienced the slimy, green gunk we endearingly refer to as algae. Even the name sounds gross and slimy, and rarely does the idea of algae excite people. What is interesting about algae, though, is what scientists have learned to do with it. A few years ago, scientists began working on a project that would allow us to essentially pressure-cook algae into crude oil. This crude oil could then be turned into fuel for jets, cars, boats, you name it. Even better, the algae could potentially be used to produce electricity and even fertilizer that could help grow more- you guessed it- algae. So exactly how did scientists turn the slick substance into a usable product? They needed a lot of pressure.
While this innovation is creative, to say the least, it got me thinking about the process used to turn algae into crude oil. In simple terms, the scientists used a large amount of pressure to turn something slimy and disgusting into a really useful product. When you stop to think about it, we’re kind of like algae. Some of us need a little (or a lot) of pressure in order to become something better, more functional, more appealing. If pressure can turn black coal into diamonds and algae into fuel, there has to be something to this idea of needing a bit of pressure, right?
While you read for the next few minutes, I want you to think of yourself like algae. You are stuck in your spot at the bottom of a fresh spring or lake. You don’t have the ability, on your own, to move around or go anywhere else. The place you’re living might not be exactly desirable; the water is probably murky and full of nasty sea creatures. You just feel stuck. In truth, you are. Without a bit of pressure, you have very little chance of turning into oil, and the same is true for the black coal just itching to become a diamond.
Many of us reach a point in our lives where we feel stuck at the bottom of the pond or lake. We don’t feel valued, much like the unwanted algae that makes us cringe when we step on it during our summer trips to the lake. All we need is a bit of pressure to help us move somewhere else. It’s not crucial that we have an elaborate plan figured out, but we have to get moving; we have to get out of the pond. We can no longer live in our comfort zone in the small pond, and it’s time to move forward.
Pressure helps wake us up. A good dose of pressure will shock us back into reality, causing us to take a good, long look at what we’re doing in our lives. How are our actions, thoughts, and words leading us into a direction we’d like to see ourselves heading? If you’ve experienced the jolt recently, you probably need to answer these questions. My guess is that some combination of your actions, words, and thoughts isn’t serving you well. It can be difficult to make a change, but a little bit of constant pressure will help us stay the course and work hard for what we want. It’s no secret that making a worthwhile change won’t be easy. It’s easy to get sidetracked when working towards something challenging, and that good pressure proves to be key here. It helps you keep your eye on the prize and assists you in moving forward even when your motivation isn’t the strongest it could be. This pressure may take the form of a trusted friend, a hard deadline, or anything that puts a bit of pressure on you.
This idea of pressure can be a slippery slope, so we have to be conscientious when allowing pressure into our lives. Much like any other habit, the key is moderation. I’m sure you’ve seen a movie, TV show, or unfortunately, a real-life scenario in which a parent put way too much pressure on a young athlete. Normally, the scene goes a little something like this: 6 year old Billy is in the middle of his first season of tee ball. Billy may or may not have even asked to be signed up for this, but he’s here now, and he’s doing his best to learn all the drills, techniques, and how to win. He may have been excited to play at first, but now it’s about winning. As Billy goes up to bat, his dad is screaming from the stands, “Here we go, Billy! Knock this one out of the park! Stand up straighter. Lean in a little more! COME ON, SON, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!” Aside from completely stealing away the fun of the game, Billy’s dad has put way too much pressure on the kid. While the other kids could care less if Billy hits the ball or not, dad isn’t leaving much of an option. Billy has to hit the ball hard, or risk being yelled at both now and later. As he takes one swing and misses, Billy starts to cry.
You know how the rest of the scene plays out, and these parents aren’t just dads with sons playing tee ball. These kinds of parents and coaches exist in all ages, sizes, and genders, and they put way too much pressure on kids to perform. The same can hold true in any aspect of our lives. Good pressure can be healthy; bad pressure can destroy your goals, your livelihood, and your relationships. The good kind of pressure is the kind we use when we want to get in better shape. It takes pressure on the body, and often the mind, to workout hard and manage our food choices. Allowing this pressure makes your body healthier, your sleep better, and your attitude more positive. There’s a clear difference in the two kinds of pressure.
Some people thrive off of pressure while others shy away from it. Finding a balance and using that pressure to propel yourself forward is a great way to make positive changes, no matter how big or small they may be.