It’s Autumn in New England -my favorite time of year. While taking long walks with my dog Lexi in the Maine woods, I am struck with how quickly nature adapts to the shorter days, the colder nights, and how easily everything in nature seems to shift into winter.
As the squirrels bustle around collecting their stores for winter, and the trees start to change color, and I note evidence of deer eating greens, roots and the neighbors gardens in effort to fatten up, I realize that Mother Nature holds many answers on how to effectively deal with change. Then, why, do we humans often find change so scary, and difficult to deal with? Why can’t we embace change as naturally as they do?
What lessons can we learn from our wild-life counterparts that would help us transition more smoothly when faced with change? We can start by mimicking some behaviors that they have long since adopted for adaptation:
Shed anything that sucks your energy: Deciduous trees, such as oak, ash and beech, shed their leaves in the autumn. On frosty winter days, the water in the soil is frozen, so it cannot be taken up by the roots; the air temperature may be quite warm if the sun is shining, so if leaves were still on the trees they would lose a lot of water and wilt. This would result in the death of the tree. So dropping the leaves before winter sets in is the most sensible thing a deciduous tree can do! They survive during the winter months using stored energy in their roots.
The lesson for us: When faced with change – drop anything that may deplete your energy, knowing you can always pick it up again when life smooths out. This may be activities that consume your time and energy, or dealing with people who drain you, or tasks that can wait for another day.
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone to get what you need: Barn swallows are one of the first bird species to migrate south from New England. My dads barn is always alive with chirping and swooping swallows from mid-June through August, but by the first days of September the barn falls silent as the birds have already headed south for their winter migration. I often wondered why these little birds took off during the most pleasant month of our summer – August. The main reason for this seasonal migration is the lack of insects to eat during winter in the north. Avoiding cold temperatures is actually a less important reason for leaving. By understanding where insects are most plentiful and when they know when to strike out for the best opportunities to find food.
The lesson for us: While it’s not always possible or practical to physically move to find ideal conditions, during times of change we do need to seek out resources to sustain us. Whether the resources are people who support us, spiritual resources, or financial resources and opportunities -we must be willing to go get what we need to achieve sustainability and growth, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zone.
Eat Nourishing Foods and get plenty of activity: In the fall, deer load up on high energy plants, seeds, and nuts that allow the deer to pack on fat stores for winter. Their metabolism in winter falls to one-half of what it is in summer, so the fat stores last longer in winter. Walking, trotting, bounding, and running are the normal gaits of a white-tailed deer, which is capable of running at speeds up to 35 mph for several miles and leaping obstacles 8.5 ft in height. This species swims well, and frequently enters water in summer to forage.
The lesson for us: Just as the white-tailed deer understands the significance of its diet for sustainability and longevity, so must we. When faced with stressful situations, it is often our default to eat foods for convenience instead of for sustenance. This can leave us depleted and lacking energy to get us through the task at hand. Eat with consciousness of how the food you are eating will nourish and sustain your body, and keep active to alleviate stress and help you transition through uncertain times.
Hit the Heights!
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
Business Leadership Guide