hamster habitatI’ve contended over the years that many people feel like a hamster on a wheel as it relates to their lives. Every day we are mindlessly running – living the same routine – perhaps even unaware that our lives are that way. I admit. I feel that way sometimes.

At a Strategic Planning Session I facilitated last weekend, one of the participants, who arrived early, and I got to catch up on our lives over the last year. I hadn’t seen him since the previous year when I facilitated the event for their company.

I asked how he was doing. He said, “I’m like a hamster in a habitat.”

“Hamster in a habit?” I questioned. “Not a wheel.”

“Nah.” He replied. “My life is more like a hamster in a habitat. I’ve got my places to roam around. I am familiar. I am comfortable. Nothing really new and exciting.”

“Hum…maybe you need to add some new sections to the habitat?” I challenged.

It got us both thinking.

The theme of this conversation; being open and intentional, expanding our view of the world, adding new experiences and being open to the unknown, seemed to permeated the next 2 days as we gathered as a group.

Something subtle, yet powerful, happened on day 2 and I believe we all learned a lesson.

Just a bit of background. This was my third year working with this group. Same venue. Same people. The room we were in was rather small with a large conference table. Intimate. Comfortable. Nobody seemed to mind the space other than the fact that in the morning the room was a little cool and in the afternoons it got a little warm. We often wrestled with the thermostat but overall the room worked for us.

Well, for some reason, the country club decided to move us into another room. It was much larger and the tables were set up in a horseshoe configuration.

Interestingly, virtually everyone who entered the room the second day commented that the room was too big and questioned if it were going to work for them.

We settled in and went back to work. Within an hour, everyone commented that the new space was actually nicer than the cramped quarters we were in the previous day.

The lessons I suspect are fairly obvious to you by now. Let me bullet point my insights.

1- We often get comfortable with our surroundings. This could be the work we do, our routines, our space. Perhaps we are all in some way shape or form like a hamster in a habitat.

2- When we do encounter new things that are unfamiliar we might be quick to judge them. We might even react harshly. But just like a child who claims they hate green beans even though they have never tasted them, we might actually like the ‘new thing’ if we are open to it.

3- Why not embrace the unknown as an exciting new adventure. We seek comfort in our lives. I told my wife the other day that skydiving is supposed to be scary. (I’ve done it twice). I told her that the experience is all about accepting and embracing all the fear and emotions that come the moment just before you jump out of the plane. Don’t run from it. Experience it.

4- Shouldn’t life be just as much about creating certainty and predictability as it should be about exploring and experiencing new adventures? Again, embrace the fear.

As you intentionally venture out into the realm of new experiences, whether it be taking on the implementation of the Level 7 Systems and having to change the way you think about work and what you do, to testing a new form or method of communication with a team member, to learning a new technology, to dedicating time (that none of us seem to have) to a new task, to making an investment in yourself or your business without knowing full well the outcome.

Regardless, embrace the feelings and fears that come with entering a new section of your habitat. You might just like it after all.

To my fellow hamsters…