One year, the company I worked for sent every employee (two departments at a time) off into the woods. Facilitated by "Leadership is Everyone's Business" team leaders, my co-workers and I participated in leadership-building exercises. One in particular made a huge impression.
The exercise itself was relatively inconsequential. Every one put on a blindfold and was handed a piece of rope that had been twisted and looped through into a kind of loose knot. The objective was to untangle everything.
I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear some individuals calling out suggestions and I could feel the rope being tugged this way and that as folks experimented with different approaches. At some point, a facilitator tapped me on my shoulder and quietly whispered that I could take off my blindfold.
With my newly available sight, I could help the rest of my co-workers! I tried to find ways to make my suggestions sound as credible as they were without disclosing my special privilege. After some time, a facilitator tapped me on the shoulder and quietly whispered that it was time to put my blindfold back on.
A few moments later, I heard my friend Anna announce "Hey everyone, my blindfold is off!" She then proceeded to call out instructions.
Where had I gotten the idea that it would be against the rules to explain that my blindfold was off? My mind was reeling. What other assumptions had I been making in my life? How many of the constraints I felt bound by were actually self imposed? How could I avoid this sort of thing in the future?
One of my life goals formulated as a result of this exercise. I want to be limited only by constraints that are real. And, if a constraint is self-imposed, it better be purposely self-imposed!