“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing is a field, I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi
When my daughter was 8 or 9 years old, she asked if we could go to restaurants of different cultures and ethnicity to try new foods. I was intrigued with her suggestion and so we began an adventure that I had no idea was going to take me out of my comfort zone. Every Friday we went to a new restaurant, and on one of those adventurous outings, we found ourselves walking into the Moroccan restaurant not far from where we lived in Santa Barbara.
The minute we walked into the door, my senses were already heightened, as we had to walk down a rather dark staircase. At the bottom of the stairway, there was a podium with a small table lamp and a beaded entrance into the dining area. We were greeted by the warm, welcoming smile of the maître d that guided us through this exotic curtain. Once inside the dining area, my eyebrows rose, as there were not any tables or chairs. Instead, my eyes beheld large and small cushions on the floor with low-lying tables. I was thinking to myself, THIS is different. I wasn’t expecting to encounter what I beheld, and wondered about my pre-conceived notion about going to a restaurant and sitting at a table in a chair. Normal, right? Yet here I was, completely out of my comfort zone. Ah well, thank goodness I was wearing jeans. The maître d handed us the menu and walked back behind the beaded curtain. While perusing the menu, I had no idea what to order because none of the items looked familiar. There were dishes called B’ssara, Tagine, Harira, Zaalouk, and Makouda. The only familiar item was the mint tea.
My daughter was full of questions, should we try this, or this, what about this? Bewildered, I told her that perhaps we should ask the waiter to suggest something. Settling into the cushion, I allowed myself to get accustomed to this new surrounding and marveled how with some time, I was becoming comfortable with the Moroccan culture’s way of dining. Just as I was feeling relaxed with this environment, I was in for yet another raised-eyebrow moment.
The server for our table was a barefooted woman who was wearing a belly-dancing costume. I looked at my daughter wondering what must be going through her mind as she observed this woman with awe and wonder. This was going to be an experience that we would never forget!
During dinner, while leaning back onto the cushions, musicians gathered off center from the open space of the dining room. As they began to play, our server came out and started moving to the music and before I knew it, she was beckoning my daughter to come and dance with her. My mind was wondering all sorts of things, is this appropriate for my daughter? Am I being an overly protective mother all of a sudden? Should we leave now that the entertainment has begun? I sat there without any answers, and so allowed myself to calm down and flow with this altogether new experience. The only answer that came to me was that I was uncomfortable because it was all so new and different. I found that I was “out beyond the idea of wrong-doing and right-doing,” and in a field very foreign to my limited experiences. Is this what Rumi was alluding to in the poem quoted above?
When we encounter beliefs, customs, and perspectives different than our own, do we take a position in our discomfort that our way is right and the other perspective is wrong?
Or can we be open-minded and flow with the experience in this new field and expand our limitations?
When coaching my clients, I often encounter situations where I challenge perspectives and beliefs. I do this as a way to help my clients uncover new solutions or ways to handle situations that requires them to conjure up what I call a “never before thought of answer.” Dealing with challenging situations often requires getting out of the known, the “tried and true way” and allowing something new to emerge. In order to facilitate this process, I often tell a client that I am going to ask a question regarding their challenge and I want them to give me an answer from their heart, not from their head. The response is almost always the same. The client responds with an answer that is new, different, and immediately, the client goes back into their head and blurts out, “No, that won’t work!” I ask them, “How come?” The answer is the same with variations. “Because it’s never been done before.” Or, “I haven’t tried that before.” You get the point. My client is out of their comfort zone, in an unfamiliar field that Rumi beckons us to lay down in. What about you?
- Are you open-minded?
- Do you like to try new things?
- Or are you closed-minded and feel threatened by the unknown and new?
A key component of Emotional Intelligence is self-actualization, which is a willingness to learn and try new and different things. Abraham Maslow coined the term, stating that self-actualization is the desire to become everything that we are capable of becoming and he put it at the top of the hierarchy of human needs. From this definition, it is my perspective that there are no limits to what we can become. How do we start this journey to reach the pinnacle of our being-ness?
Do you feel threatened or fearful to try something new and different?
Are you motivated to become all that you are capable of becoming?
Motivation is the first component. The second component is: What are you actively doing to reach that pinnacle of self-actualization?
If you are a leader of an organization, are you open to feedback and suggestions from your staff? Or, do you clamp down and tell them this is how it is done and are unwilling to change? Change is change and most of us do not like change, experiencing it as a threat. Are you able to feel the discomfort and allow yourself to grow into the change and experience it as a reward? Choosing an open mindset is the stepping-stone toward self-actualization. Being close-minded keeps us stuck. Which one are you? If you are close-minded, a thought leader can often help you get past your comfort zone and embrace the unknown and rise to new heights. When you try something new, you rise to the occasion and like my daughter, you don’t’ merely sit back and watch, you get up, join in, and dance even when you don’t’ know the steps.
I hope you gained some insights from this article. I welcome your comments and thumbs up, to further the exploration of ways to get out of our comfort zones. I offer a complimentary webinar on emotional intelligence if you feel your organization could benefit from this information. email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information. “Success Starts with You!”