This is deer hunting season. Over the last week or so, I’ve spent a couple dozen hours alone in the woods. I usually arrive before daylight and often leave after dark. So, I’ve had plenty of time watching one of my favorite woodland creatures… the squirrel. They are amazing animals! And, my observations of them during my many hours of seeing no deer can also be applied to us, both in the working environment and at home. Let’s take a look at some of these:
- Squirrels have a long-term view – Squirrels are planners. They do not live only for today. They gather food in the autumn (mostly nuts) and hide them in the soil and under leaves to retrieve when times get tough. They are able to survive our harsh winters when no food is growing by saving for the future. This long-term view has paved the way for a successful future, whatever that is for a squirrel. We also need to have a long-term view of things. The events of today may be only for today. But, planning for the longer-term can mean the difference between success and failure. The most used example of this is saving for retirement. Many simply do not save enough. But, proper planning and diligence can pay off in the end. Another example is that crisis you face today. Sure, it is bad today, but tomorrow is a new day; new week is a new week; and time tends to heal.
- Squirrels are industrious and innovative – When a squirrel cannot reach a cluster of acorns on the end of a limb, they will chew through the limb until it falls to the ground. Then, they will scamper down to the ground and retrieve their harvest. They don’t let the fact that the acorns are out of reach on end of the limb hold them back. We need to be just as inventive as squirrels. When we reach a difficult or challenging or impossible situation, we need to think outside the box for a solution. We might be able to solve the problem in the usual way, but, by thinking in new ways, we might find a new approach.
- Squirrels have learned how to survive – A mother squirrel knows that her young are helpless and easy prey for other animals. So, to protect them, she builds her nest as far toward the end of the limbs as possible. She also looks for a tenuous spot near the top of the tree. That way, the limbs are so limber that no other animal could get to her nest. She has found a way to protect her nest from unwanted invaders. We need to think like a squirrel! What are those things in life that pose the most risk to us? Are we being industrious in finding ways to protect them? Are we using our brains to outwit our adversaries? One way we can do this is to build redundancies around key assets in our lives. By asking, “What if…?” we can often construct safeguards.
- Squirrels take time to play – Squirrels have lots of fun! They play tag, chase each other, and enjoy their lives in the woods. They have fun all day long. We need to take that queue and find time to have fun ourselves. By refreshing our minds, we are much better able to focus on those challenges that plague us.
- Squirrels are curious – It is fun to watch a squirrel try to sneak close to me in the woods. I am wearing camouflage clothing, but I know the squirrels are not fooled. The creep us as close to me as they can to learn more about this strange creature in their space. A bit of this same curiosity would be beneficial to us. We are so busy that we fail to stop and look at the world around us. We want everything to be black or white and fail to see the gray all around us.
- Squirrels communicate – Squirrels chatter and bark at each other all day long. They chatter when they want to play and when they fear danger. They “talk” to each other frequently to discuss current events and problems they face. We need to be more communicative, as well. Have we lost touch with family members or friends? Do we fail to communicate important things or activities? Have we let email or texting replace actual conversations? We need to re-engage with people in real conversations at work and at home.
- Squirrels have a network of others – Speaking of others, it is fun to watch squirrels with their network of other squirrels. It is good to see gray squirrels play with fox squirrels. Families of squirrels mix. They communicate. They work together. We need a strong network of colleagues and supporters. We need others than can provide a fresh viewpoint or keep us from making mistakes. We need others to hold us accountable. Finding and keeping that strong network can make a difference in so many ways.
Wow! You probably now know more about squirrels than you ever thought possible! However, there is much we can learn from them and how they approach life. We should be applying these seven “Squirrel Principles” to our own lives and work.
So, for today, go be a squirrel! Have a terrific, top-ten day!