” Even if you live to be 100, it’s really a very short time. So why not spend it undergoing this process of evolution, of opening your mind and heart, connecting with your true nature – rather than getting better and better at fixing, grasping, freezing, closing down? ” — Pema Chodron
While Stephen Covey may have cornered the market with his breakthrough tome “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, after my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies I believe the animal kingdom can offer us even more wisdom. Forget the theory that just because humans have opposing thumbs that they sit at the top of the pyramid of wisdom. One only needs to look as far as the state of affairs of wildlife management, environmental issues, and the pace of life in general to know that while we may be smart and innovative, sometimes we’re missing the back to basic mentality that can truly help us thrive and enjoy our lives while we do it.
When I wasn’t spending time obsessing about the fact that the bear population was out in full force because it was prime berry season in the Banff and Jasper areas, I really tuned into the amazing wildlife we were seeing. What did these magnificent creatures have to teach us? Well, this is what I found.
Follow Nature’s Rhythm
There is an ebb and flow to nature’s rhythm that is universal. In the harsh winters activity slows down. Bears hibernate, mountain goats head to higher elevations, and fish reduce activity as they feed beneath the frozen water. If they chose to do it any differently they simply wouldn’t survive.
The lesson here is that we each have our own personal rhythm that is optimal for us and we need to tune it to the natural world around us. We’ve become so far removed from the natural flow of things by spending our days cooped up in cubicles, living in artificial environments, and moving at some prefabricated societal warp speed that we can sometimes get out of synch.
While I’m not suggesting that we all need to move to the wilderness and live off the land, I do believe slowing down to the speed of life each day so we can recognize and flow with our own body’s rhythms and that of the natural world around us is key to our own personal effectiveness and fulfillment.
Trust Your Instincts
Animals live and die by their instincts. They don’t sit around and analyze charts, graphs, and white papers before acting. While they do assess a situation, they don’t go into analysis paralysis. If an animal gets startled, it’ll instantly determine whether to fight or flee. If their predators are nearby, they camouflage themselves best they can and stay on high alert.
ave you ever made a decision where your instincts told you one thing but you thought about it and then it turned out badly? You probably said to yourself, “I should’ve trusted my instincts!” We all have the ability to tap into our instincts which allows us to get beneath the chatter of the mind. When we do that, we tend to be more aligned with our higher good and make better choices. So, even if you’re faced with choices that require some analysis, remember to tap into your instincts to ensure you make the best choices possible each day.
Know Your Predators/Know Your Friends
Animals know not to waste their energy and time picking fights with non-predators. They pick their battles and only attack if they feel threatened. Even then, if possible they will first flee a threat rather than fight. While there are certainly predators out there that need to hunt and kill for food they are methodical about it and clearly in search of food and not simply trying to liven things up in the animal kingdom. There is also the delicate balance of prey and predator that keeps the circle of life flowing as each animal in it has a role to play. The animal kingdom lives in harmony based on a higher plan.
How do you interact with other members of your species (other humans)? Do you assume the best in others or do you attack at first sight? Do you live your life in service to others helping them to be their best or do you live from a mentality of scarcity and treat everyone as a potential predator even keeping those closest to you at arms length because you fear your own vulnerability?
Honor Your Uniqueness
You will not find the fish in the trees nor will you find elk swimming laps at the local lake. Why? Because the animal kingdom has perfected the concept of knowing and playing to their strengths. You don’t see any animal annual performance appraisals going on where the animal in charge focuses on the groups’ weaknesses and then asks the fish to focus on improving their running skills while pleading with the birds to take a self-improvement class on swimming. If they did, they wouldn’t survive. Instead the mother animals teach their young how to further strengthen their natural abilities so they can ensure survival of the species.
If this is nature’s order, why then do humans skip this lesson? I’ll be the first to promote self-growth and stretching yourself in areas you never thought you could. However, so many of us spend our lives spinning our wheels and focusing on our weaknesses that we never truly cultivate our unique talents. What if we instead played to our strengths and passions so we could thrive?
Focus and Be in the Moment
Animals don’t multi-task. If you’ve ever watched a bird building her nest or even a house cat lounging around, they are 100% focused on what they are doing (or in the case of my cats, not doing anything) and totally in the moment. They aren’t worried about what will happen later, tomorrow, or even in ten minutes. They aren’t hunting for food and building a nest while checking e-mail.
There isn’t a successful business or life fulfillment expert that would disagree with me that focus and being in the moment are keys to success. Why, then do we spend so little time fully engaged in what we are doing at any given moment? If you’ve ever lost yourself in a hobby and found yourself energized and totally immersed in what you were doing, you know the feeling I am talking about. How can you get more of that in your life every day both on and off the job?
Clearly Define Your Goals
You might think, “what do you mean animals have goals?” Well, they might not have a business plan and a pie chart, but they are clearly goal oriented. For example, a mother bird on a timeline to build a nest before she can lay eggs; or, a bear needing to eat a certain amount of food in order to survive the winter hibernation. They are clear on what they need and move wholeheartedly toward their goal.
If you don’t know what you really want, how will you know when you get it? That is the essence of a clearly defined goal – being clear on what you need and want. After that, it is all about inspired action over a period of time and not spreading yourself too thin.
Use Only What You Need/Sustainable Living
The animal kingdom does not live in the lap of excess, nor do they waste any resources given to them. When a predator bags its prey it feeds on the whole of the carcass. If there is any left, other animals enjoy the bounty. The carnivores aren’t out there trying to kill as many prey as possible, only what they need. Instinctually it knows that being wasteful could impact its likelihood of survival.
While I am all for living life and enjoying some truly guilty pleasures, I also believe how we handle the both the things that are given to us as well as the world around us directly impacts what is possible for us. For instance, if we mismanage and disrespect the money we already have, it is pretty likely that we’re not going to attract money abundantly because we’re sending the message that we can’t handle it. Or, if we do attract it (like many lottery winners), it’ll slip through our hands so fast that we’ll be back where we started. The same holds true for our physical surroundings, the environment, and the relationships we have with others. Thriving over the long haul means living sustain ably day to day.
The next time you find yourself at a loss for answers when it comes to your life, pause for a few minutes and be willing to look to nature for a clue. The answers are all around us.
Ready to install new habits into your personal operating system? Contact me and let’s have a conversation about how I can help you create more fun and profit in your business (and life!).