While walking around a local store a couple of days ago, I overheard an adult male asking a child a question. Standing tall, hands folded on the handle of the shopping cart, with the tone of a politician, he asked, "Why did the chicken cross the road?".
The little girl with him did not know the answer. Once illuminated with the answer, she turned, arms crossed, and stomped off toward whom I could only presume was her mother.
"Daddy's not funny!" she whined. I couldn't blame the little girl for her attitude. After all, the only thing that has caused us to laugh at that joke for over a hundred years, is the expectation of receiving more than we actually got.
It did make me wonder though. . .
Why would a chicken leave the safety and sanctity of its home to cross a road?
Could it have been being chased by a predator?
Could it have been confused or distracted?
Or could it have been some little-known chicken version of truth or dare?
Why did he want to get to the other side?
The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that the chicken knew what it was doing.
Day in and day out these apparently gentle intelligent birds partake in their natural behaviors of foraging for food, keeping themselves clean with dust baths, and tending to their nests. Depending on the breed of the chicken, and if it is lucky enough not to be chosen to go on a field trip or to grace the dinner table, a chicken will do this every day for the entirety of its existence which ranges between 5-10 years. Chickens calmly go through their lives, exhibiting limited behaviors and with near-zero levels of risk. They exist completely in their comfort zone.
However, similarly to humans, chickens can become bored when unable to move around freely. Bored chickens are more likely to become stressed and even depressed, putting their feelings on display with behaviors that deviate from what is considered to be normal. Perhaps one of these behaviors is wandering off.
Now, whether chicken or human, we are wired for survival and so have ingrained deep within us the need to shy away from perceived threats whenever possible. So, wandering off, or stepping outside of our comfort zone, even as a reaction to stress, is not an easy thing to do. It will more than likely require facing anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. It may even make us outcasts as the behavior is labeled as abnormal, particularly by those in your inner circle.
However, if we are able to muster up the courage, if we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone, it opens the doors to possibilities. It brings to light all that exists beyond the barriers created by your own personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Each time we dive in to try something new, embrace an unfamiliar experience, challenge ourselves, or take risks, we are learning. Even if we make mistakes, they are not failures, for those become experiences that expand our collection of life skills and self-knowledge that we are able to access in the future to better handle changes and overcome obstacles. By breaking down our own barriers and compiling knowledge, we open our eyes to the world around us and discover what we are truly capable of.
No wonder the chicken wanted to cross the road, bored or not.
So the next time opportunity knocks, take the advice of our barnyard buddy and venture outside of your own familiar world. You may have to dodge a few cars along the way, but with a little caution, you could arrive at an amazing place that allows you to enjoy a wonderful life made up of ALL of your experiences, not just the ones you’re comfortable with.
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