Expand Your World

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The kickoff of the NFL season this past weekend began the fan frenzy. Pro football is America’s favorite sport, evidenced by the massive amounts of money it generates, television viewership, betting, fantasy leagues and the endless armchair quarterbacking on TV and radio sports programs by analysts, second-guessers and self-assured prognosticators.

For those of you who don’t want to read about sports and have already had it up to here with football mania, I promise this expose isn’t really about our new national pastime. So please read on and hear me out. Fans have their favorite teams, of course. Mine are the Pittsburgh Steelers, as I grew up in western Pennsylvania, and the Carolina Panthers, whom I adopted when I moved to the south. I’ve got season tickets and cheer for the home team every chance I get.

Maybe your favorite team isn’t related to its geographic proximity. Maybe you’ve always liked horses, so you caught the bug for the Colts or the Broncos. Was your great-great-great-grandfather a gold prospector? If so, perhaps the San Francisco 49ers are in your blood. Like airplanes? Go, Jets! Partial to aqua and orange? Yay, Dolphins!

The point is, once the game starts, as a fan we want our team to crush our opponents, especially our fiercest rivals. We develop a kind of aversion for their star players. It’s not personal, mind you, but it can prevent us from appreciating the skill and grace with which they play, even the good they do off the field because all we’re focused on is obliterating them.

Does a limiting mindset hinder you in other areas of your life? Do your self-imposed biases and beliefs prevent you from appreciating — or even understanding — others at your workplace, in politics or other social environments? Could it be stopping you from making your life richer and contributing to the betterment of the world?

It can be difficult to change our behavior or our thinking, to be more gracious or broad-minded. When we regularly encounter someone we don’t particularly like or respect, dismissing him or her is just the simplest thing. Tune them out! Our attitude toward them festers, however, hour after hour, day after day, and year after year. It’s a constant negative that we live with and grow accustomed to, like swerving around a pothole that never gets filled on a neighborhood street.

How do such relationships impact our performance at work and our organization overall? The goal of any company should be a unified mission, a cooperative mindset. When any of us fails in that regard, not only does it affect us personally, it affects the company as a whole. Success is that much more unattainable.

When you wake up tomorrow morning and prepare yourself for work or other daily activities, take a mental shower. Tell yourself you will try to find ways to combat biases that could be keeping you and others down. Take little steps to develop a stronger, more inclusive mindset. Watch your world expand.

Least you think I’m being overly critical, this is really about me! I’ve denied myself access to various offerings in the world simply because I’ve stubbornly refused to try something different (like Sushi, which I now love, for instance) or step outside my comfort zone. Many of our boundaries are self-induced and, therefore, surmountable.

If you don’t challenge yourself, you won’t grow. Simple as that.

Does that mean I have to become a Baltimore Ravens fan? No, but that doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally allow myself to view games from the “rival” perspective. I don’t want my road to be so full of potholes that all I’m doing is looking down to elude them instead of witnessing all the beauty that happens. Then again, I can expand my world by filling those holes myself, which will make my ride much smoother.

Enjoy yours!