Monthly Archives: June 2009

Nature Lesson #2: Pick Your Battles Wisely

 

Welcome to the “Lessons from Nature” series based on a profound insight I had:  Humans may have the most complex brains on the planet, but nature as a whole has a better grip than humankind on how to successfully achieve a thriving quality of life.

What I mean by that is this:  Each species instinctively knows what type of quality of life it is supposed to have on this Earth and actively works to achieve it.  The only species that seems to have trouble doing so is humans (see my earlier blog posts for more details).  During this series I will be sharing with you a number of lessons we can learn from nature which will help us achieve a thriving quality of life more consistently. 

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We can learn a lot from nature about how to have a thriving quality of life by watching how animals pick their battles wisely.

Animals who live in the wild have a lot of potential enemies.  There is always a species bigger or more dangerous who can potentially cut short their lives.  Even Lions, typically at the top of the food chain, keep their eyes out for danger on a regular basis. 

What I find most amazing about wild animals in general, however, is that they pick their battles wisely.  When they sense a potential threat they don’t automatically gear up to fight.  Instead they typically go very still and quickly determine whether to ignore the threat, stand up to it, or run away. 

I love watching the Discovery Channel when there are lions, elephants, and birds all communing in the same area.  Each one instinctively knows the other is not a threat, so they feed and drink together with just a cautionary glance at their security.  Even human photographers aren’t considered a threat once the animals become accustomed to their presence.  Picking their battles wisely allows wild animals to conserve their energy for more important things like hunting and traveling over long distances.

Just like wild animals, most pets also pick their battles wisely.  For example, when young children are around dogs and cats they don’t know any better so they pull at their fur and grab their ears or faces.  Dakota (our Siberian Husky) and Verbal (our Maine Coon cat) immediately sense potential harm when that happens, but they pick their battles wisely.  Dakota will quickly determine that the child is not a threat and lick the child until he is laughing so hard he lets go.   Verbal, on the other hand, is not quite as nice.  She knows the child is not a threat and usually gently nips the child as a warning to get his attention.  Then once he backs away she will run upstairs and hide.  

The bottom line is this:  Because my pets pick their battles wisely, they are allowed to stay members of our family.   If they ever lost that instinct and intentionally drew blood in order to harm that child, with heavy hearts we would have to put them down. 

Unlike animals, humans don’t tend to pick their battles wisely.  When our feelings are hurt in some way we rarely take a moment to assess the situation first to determine whether the other person is really a threat (intentionally trying to hurt you).  We have a habit of reacting first and thinking later, causing lots of unecessary tension within our personal and professional relationships. 

The one lesson I wish newly married couples would learn quickly is this:  When disagreements happen or feelings get hurt, remember that you got married because you LOVE each other.   Therefore take a moment BEFORE your hurt feelings or anger get the best of you to ask yourself the following questions:  What might he/she have misinterpreted to cause her/him to think that?  What information don’t I have that could have attributed to his/her reaction?   Answering these questions will put the situation into perspective and allow you to react in a more loving way.

As with all things it may be necessary to “battle” with another person to resolve a situation.  But when you make a habit of it, the “weight” of your words is lessened over time.  If you pick your battles wisely, and use the right words, the other person will listen more closely to what you have to say and probably be more open to your point of view.

If we could visually see the harm our words cause during an argument, I guarantee we would be more careful with how we say things.  For example imagine this:

A husband and wife are completely frustrated with each other and begin to argue.  As both get angrier and angrier they begin to care less about their words and intentionally try to hurt each other’s feelings.  But to their surprise every time they say something mean, a deep gash appears on their spouses body.  Word after word causes gash after gash, and they are both dripping with blood after just a few minutes.  They stop and look at each other in complete surprise.  Then, because of the visual reminder, they begin to talk things out in a more productive way… all the while being careful to say things that aren’t intentionally hurtful as they try to resolve the situation.

If those types of visual affects were possible, I guarantee most people would instinctively talk out their problems in a healthier way instead of lashing out first. 

Learn from nature and begin to pick your battles (and your words) wisely.  I promise you’ll notice a difference in your relationships in some way over the months to come.

I look forward to your comments on this article.  Stay tuned next week for another lesson from nature.

Have a fabulous day and don’t forget to keep an eye out for all the amazing possibilities within and around you!

Sincerely,
Kris Cavanaugh
C.E.O. Catalyst & Life Coach 
www.begintoshift.com