Around the middle of every semester, I ask my college students, "How many of you are sitting in the same seat you’ve been in from the first day of class?” All hands go up.
“How many of you are sitting in the same seat in every class?” All hands go up.
I ask what would happen if I asked them to change their seats right now. One student offered, “We would be really upset”. The other students nod.
One student told me it was “traumatic” when another student spilled coffee in her regular seat and she had to choose another seat, which upset another student who had to move too.
I then asked why they self-assign themselves a specific seat.
"One less thing to think about."
The professors condone this behavior because it helps them learn students' names when students sit in the same seat, even though they don’t ask them to do it.
And this, my friends, is what we metaphorically do in our lives. I point this out to my students, who always seem surprised. They never even consciously realized they were choosing the same seat, but we all do it in one way or another, every day.
We innocently “pick a seat” and then we stay in that “seat” and we say this is MY seat. Others around us start to expect us to “sit in that seat” too.
And while it gives us comfort, it can prevent us from taking even the smallest risks, pursuing dreams, trying new things, finding new perspectives, learning and growing.
So, how do we “change seats”? You do the new. You volunteer. You mentor. You expand your network. You learn new skills. You purposely seek new experiences and opportunities to learn regardless of how old, or successful you are.
In fact, my own experience showed me that the more successful you are, the more likely you are to find yourself stuck in “the same seat." Why? Because it just gets so darn comfortable and before you know it, there you are… stuck. And this is what launched me in my year of doing 365 first-time experiences. (Read I Dare Me :) )
Now, I tell my students it's actually not a big deal to pick a seat and stay in it for class.
It is a big deal to avoid going to the career fair, creating a new resume and meeting employers—all the things that require some risk, discomfort and chance of rejection or imperfection.
It’s the same for us, adults—working professionals. We don’t have to change everything. But, we all have to get out of our “seats” every now and then, do the new and get a fresh perspective to create more of the life we want.
How will you “change seats?”