Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Who would ever think that Canadian Geese could teach me about stepping outside my comfort zone?

Well, let me explain.

What do you picture when I mention geese? For me, two images stand out in my mind: sometimes, I see a beautiful flock flying in unison as one entity across the autumn sky.Other times, I envision a gaggle of geese in a nearby park while I stand on the periphery trying to navigate messy droppings. In either case, I see them in large groups.

This past weekend, several geese challenged my usual images.

I was visiting our local coffee shop, an inviting spot in an otherwise monotonous strip mall, to drink a latte and read the paper. I looked up and, to my bewilderment, saw two large Canadian geese just strolling, prancing, and sauntering through the busy parking lot, oblivious to traffic and hustle of morning shoppers. They meandered over to the grassy parking strip between cars and—I swear—glanced up very casually at me. Then they went about their business of pecking for interesting tidbits in the grass. 

They seemed very much at ease in a place I figured was way out of their comfort zone. They weren’t scared or intimidated as they hung back, out of the way of motorists.

Their powerful presence in a sea of people and vehicles gave me pause. 

I thought“What gives with the geese?” My practical and rational left brain, reminded me that they probably just wandered over from the little pond in suburbia, about 200 feet away, which was their home. So, I reframed my question in my mind—I wasn’t so much interested in how or why they’d arrived here. Rather, I couldn’t help but wonder how and why they were so comfortable in what seemed to be a threatening, unknown environment.

What happens when we leave our comfort zones in the workplace?

Are there tidbits of “nourishment” waiting for us if we’re willing to stretch beyond our circles? Can we safely leave the security of our departments and explore areas that may be a little foreign? And can we do so with an open mind and willingness to embrace what comes from our new environs—like the two geese?

I believe we can! Here are some tips to help us explore and push against our own comfort zones:

·      Put all expectations of how things should be aside. Be open to different norms and values.

·      Maintain your cool, even when something outside of your comfort zone makes you think and act differently.

·      As you look at departments and staff outside of the safety of your own workplace, consider it an opportunity to learn. Maybe there is a better mousetrap. Ask questions, always respectfully, and consider alternative ways of doing things.

·      And finally, remember that diversity of thought leads to more creativity, and can be quite exciting, especially if the “same old ideas” are starting to bore you, let alone your stakeholders.

Go ahead—step outside of your comfort zone this week! Enjoy a new experience.

MaryAnne Harmer