I find it really interesting to draw parallels between human and animal behaviour. It can be problematic in terms of personification but I think that it can help to shine a light on how we can overcomplicate things as adult humans. And once you’ve noticed it and thought about it, sometimes it’s stuff you don’t need to repeat.
I’ll be specific. This morning’s musings came about when I was watching our pet rabbits. They’re brilliant little characters and live outside in a big hen house. Both are rescues, and I feel like they’ve got a pretty good life now. I was watching them bounce about the place and then they would stop for a little snack and then carry on. (For context, I was rocking the baby outside in her pram in the hope that she would go to sleep, and watching them at the same time. She did eventually but I was there a while!)
There’s a lot of rabbit behaviour that I don’t think we should be looking to emulate as humans (coprophagy being the most striking example) but I was watching them eating their hay and I was struck by their precision. They are bedded on straw and have hay in a little rack to eat. The hay stays in the rack about 5 minutes before they drag it out and it gets mixed in with the straw. But they weren’t eating the straw. They were picking through the bits and dramatically tossing the straw to one side and eating the hay as they found it. I was impressed because they clearly know the difference between hay and straw and I’ve met a lot of people that don’t (although, to be fair, I’m not asking those people to eat it) but also because they clearly know what they want. They don’t want to eat straw, it’s tough and fibrous, they want the hay, so they sort through and eat the good bits.
This isn’t the case for a lot of adult humans (me included). I think it’s often difficult to know what we want. We can know what is expected of us, as employees, or leaders, or parents, or friends, but how often is it that we stop and think about what we actually want. Very rare in my experience. And especially as we are in a caring profession, we often put the needs of our patients and clients first. And by doing this over and over and over again, it can happen that we actually forget ourselves, and what we want, to the point where, if someone asks us, we actually have no idea what we want at all.
So, I would like to suggest to you that you make a list of the things that you want. Not the things that you think you should want, but the things you actually want. The things that resonate with you and you can get excited about. It can be the things that you want today or the things that you want in the next 12 months or 10 years, but it’s a really good habit to get into because it makes you stop and make time to listen to yourself. It can help you pause and get out of your head a little, and there’s a whole host of benefits to that too. And who knows what will come up, you might be surprised!
For me, the list needs to be written down, with pen and paper rather than on my phone, otherwise it’s too easy to get distracted by something else a bit shiny like a Facebook notification! You also need to be in a quiet place with no other distractions otherwise your thought process will get disturbed and you might need to start again. (The irony of this today is not lost on me. I have just handed out Pringles to both of my older kids who have come in and demanded a snack. I guess you’ve just got to find the time where you can sometimes!...........Oh crikey, now they want to make ice lollies, it’s the coldest day of the year and frosty outside!) So yeah, no distractions is preferable but not always possible I guess!
Anyway, my point is, think about what you really want and need today. Write it down and try to make it happen. You can fit the ‘should’ stuff in around it if you need to but identifying what you want means listening to yourself which is always worth doing.