Stretching Cultural Boundaries: Tai Chi

Every year, I encourage my second year international business students to go out and try something different, to engage in an activity that feels foreign to them, that puts them just outside their comfort zone. This activity can be as simple as going to an ethnic restaurant and ordering something out of the ordinary,  as long as it feels foreign to them.

The idea behind this assignment is very simple: We tend to stick to what feels comfortable, and in this comfort we can get rigid in our ways. Purposefully challenging our boundaries helps us to remain flexible, push us to continue learning and growing and makes us better people. When we know how it feels to be uncomfortable we have a little more empathy towards those that may be outsiders in our own element.

It was with that spirit that I signed up for Tai Chi classes yesterday. Despite Tai Chi’s popularity in the west, it is completely new to me. My first class was definitely a stretch. I felt lost, confused, and clumsy. All I did was practice walking, and those simple steps were extremely challenging to me. Not only I found it difficult to perform the moves, I found myself constantly wondering about the logic of things – why do we take a tea break in the middle of a one-hour class?

Overall it was a reminder that there is always room for growth and learning. It does not matter how good we are in what we already do, there is a lot out there that we know nothing about.

Did I like it? I don’t know. I was too uncomfortable to appreciate it. I decided to give it some time, and push my boundaries until it feels comfortable. My goal is to at least master walking gracefully. Who knows how long that will take me.

Have you stretched your boundaries lately?

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About Luciara Nardon

I am a professor of International Business at the Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa.
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