Article by Peak Performance Strategist, Abigail Ireland
The other day, I watched a video about squirrels navigating a complex garden obstacle course.
What fascinates me about these clever characters is their agility. They are quick to learn, quick to adapt and quick to bounce back when faced with setbacks.
Another interesting observation was how the squirrels would fixate on a specific spot when falling, by focusing their heads and eyes whilst using their limbs and tails to course correct on the way down. This meant they almost always hit their preferred landing spot despite the circumstances, and they do this successfully by focusing on what’s in their control.
This got me thinking about how we can apply this squirrel wisdom to the way we navigate through uncertainty. Here’s what I learned:
Keep your eyes on the prize
If you’ve ever tried anything like walking a tightrope or stand up paddleboarding, you’ll know that you’re typically fine if you keep your eyes on the horizon, looking into the distance instead of focusing too intently on the minutiae – whether that’s a choppy sea or a wobbly section of rope. This applies to our current reality. We need to look past the immediate ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and instead stay focused on our longer term goals and vision. This attitude will give us direction and purpose when all else may seem unclear.
Be open to changing course
Just like the squirrel, we need to focus more intently on those things in our control. If we feel like we’re going to fall or wobble, what can we do to improve our skills so we can manage more effectively? How can you use your ‘limbs’ to steer in your preferred direction? Think about the people and resources at your disposal that can help you through this uncertainty. More than anything, trust in your ability to be resourceful and agile. It’s normal to be scared and concerned about uncertainty, so rest assured that you are not alone in how you feel. The secret is to acknowledge this fear and then step forward, channelling your energy towards the choices you can make.
Embrace the setbacks
In the video I watched, the squirrels were defeated by certain obstacles (that is, at first). The most amazing thing about these cunning critters is that they got back up and tried again…and again…and again to crack each challenge on the course. They fell, they dropped, they made the wrong move – and they learned from each attempt. They used these setbacks to hone their skills and make a little more progress the next time. The message for us all is to step back and view our experiences from a different perspective. What can we learn about ourselves and the circumstances? What elements can we keep, what would be better off discarded, and what new behaviours can we maintain in the longer term?
There is much to learn from observing others who ‘do change well’ and this is a huge opportunity to reinvent your approach, do away with the things (thoughts, behaviours and even people) that don’t serve you well, and inject more energy into what you really want from work and life – and how you approach each day.
On that note, learn from the squirrel handbook and take a leap into uncertainty, knowing that you have the resources and capabilities to thrive despite the circumstances.
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