Back in 2007 Jan and I volunteered at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo for a day. What we remember most about that day is the opportunity we had to learn about having fun at all ages. Our assignment was to run a mud station in the farm part of the zoo. We were to invite zoo patrons to play in the mud. We learned so much about ourselves, our goals in life, and how people face the opportunity to play so differently.
When you think of mud, what comes to mind? Sticky, gross, fun, childhood, laundry, chore and/or avoid at all cost? Whatever comes to mind for you is likely based off of your experience with mud as a child (or as the parent of a child). Mud can be so many things to each of us.
When we would invite people to play in the mud we were fascinated by the responses we'd get. Some children would dash toward us without a thought in world. Others would look at their parents, seeking approval. Some others would contemplate it for a moment, then with shy reserve, decline the invitation and walk away longingly looking back at the mud as they left. Teenagers were a little different. Teenage boys wanted to play in it, but could not admit it in front of their friends until the lead male said he wanted to. Teenage girls avoided it at all cost. Adults with kids took one of two paths: 1. Said no, and usually deterred their kid from playing in it. Or 2. Played in it with their kids. Very few adults allowed their kids to play in the mud alone.
All of these responses told us that people view the same experience in such different ways. The chance to dig our hands in the wet earth is something our ancestors literally thrived upon (that's how we developed agrarian societies!).
The folks that were completely open to the mud had a lot of fun. They played in it with complete disregard about getting dirty because they were enjoying themselves. Those who followed their kids to the mud and played with them turnedout to have the most fun of all. They were the ones who came out of their shells a little bit because they were reminded how awesome mud is. The chance to play like a kid in something most adults these days don't play in was fantastic to them, and they soaked it up.
What this told us is that we often come to a situation with an idea in our head about how that situation will be. A bias, if you will. Yet, that bias is based off of dated information that may not actually even be true. Most of our biases are developed from impressions of past events either lived by us or someone else we trust who informed us about it. Whether that's from parents getting angry at us as a kid for playing in the mud, or from a teacher or other authority figure telling us we should not do that.
So much of our lives are spent living with these silent, and often invisible to us, biases that determine how we'll act. It may not be mud that you're facing, but a new child, a friend in need, a business opportunity, or the chance to leave your job and travel because you can, but your bias may be standing in your way.
Remember the children who looked at the mud longingly. You know they wanted to play in it, but something either internal or external was telling them "No". They may not remember that particular day for the rest of their lives, but they will always live with the knowledge that they are not doing what they want to do with the time they have.
Also, think of the teenagers. The boys wanted to play in the mud, but needed a leader to show them it was ok. The girls may have wanted to, but could not bring themselves to do so, it's hard to tell.
Think about the people who had fun in the mud. Those who were free enjoyed themselves. Those who were a bit resistant, but ultimately overcame their bias (often with the help of a small child who reminded them how to play) had the best time ever.
We all have biases. It's what we do with them that matters in our lives. Do we let our bias run our life or do we hear the voice, accept that it's there, and then make the decision that makes the most sense for us? If you want a Comfy life, you can hear and listen to that bias, take its suggestion as input, and then go forth and put your hands in some mud.
What biases do you have that are holding you back from playing with your life?
What resources can you call upon, whether from leaders, those you trust, or even your children, who can help you break out of your shell?
Is there something you'd like to do, but a nagging voice is telling you not to?
Go ahead, stick your hands in the mud. The worst that will happen is you'll have to wash your hands and clothes!