(This blog post was originally published on January 20th, 2020)
You are familiar with the phrase: "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity". If this was true for all of life, then ballplayers would not practice all winter to improve their bat swing. So why do we have examples, like the Pine Caterpillar that just follow after the leader, even to their own death? This is a time of year, that we are fighting to maintain our New Year's Resolutions, and it might seem better to fall back in line with everyone else and just give up. Change is hard and uncomfortable but that is NOT a reason to quit. First, let me tell you about these crazy caterpillars and then explain how that applies to you right now!
Botanist, Jean-Henri Fabre in 1742, created fame for these social little caterpillars by making them follow each other in a circle. You can see how they follow in exact alignment as the YouTube video by duckvandyke:
Bu this is what Jean-Henri Faber did;
"He took several caterpillars and placed them in single file around the rim of a flowerpot. Each caterpillar’s head touched the end of the caterpillar in front of it so that the procession formed a full circle. Fabre placed pine needles, which are the favorite food of the caterpillars of this type, in the middle of the circle formed by the procession. What makes a Processionary caterpillar special is the instinct to blindly follow the caterpillar in front of it. All caterpillars went in circles hour after hour, day after day, night after night thinking that the caterpillar in front of them was heading to the food. In 7 days, all the caterpillars died from hunger and exhaustion although food was just 6 inches away from them and the only thing they needed to do to get it was to change the direction of movement. The procession died simply because when the strategy of finding food didn’t give results, the caterpillars didn’t change it." Sedniev, Andrii (2020-01-18). The Achievement Factory: How to Fulfill Your Dreams and Make Life an Adventure (p. 62). Kindle Edition.
This time of year, we are often wishing for a change, waiting for a change, fighting for change and waiting for the pay off from our efforts. Change causes discomfort, but staying where you are can be really uncomfortable ESPECIALLY if you are Pine Caterpillar in a botanist study! How crazy can we be when we are walking around with blinders on doing the same old thing over and over again?
Even, the good things we do, if done without intention are of no or limited benefit. Prayer, without intentional focus at the moment, is simply a thought. Our prayers, without fully appreciating to whom we pray, without the full presence of mind and intention become less meaningful. There are those who only pray when they are in crisis, this IS NOT NEW! St Gregory of Nyssa in his letter to Eusebius in 2162 wrote;
"Why is it that then only, when the night has attained its utmost length, so that no further addition is possible, that He appears in flesh to us."St Gregory of Nyssa Letters, Complete, https://www.elpenor.org/nyssa/letters.asp 1/19/20
Why is it, we only reach for the full understanding of God when we see no hope? Often, once the painful season has passed we forget the benefit of thanking God for what we have, asking for forgiveness, for guidance and strength, we go back to regular life; going through the motions as simple as a caterpillar; eat, sleep, work repeat. If going to Church, reading the Bible or saying grace before a meal are simply checkboxes in your day, where is the heart of prayer? Do you fight every Sunday morning with kids about looking good and being obedient at Church? I think this was the original self-glorifying selfie. There was no social media or cute filters, but the image we portray for the Church Community is often the biggest lie we tell each week. Where your heart is at matters!
Now, I should say, I am a prayerful follower of Christ who is not at the moment attending Church on a regular basis. And my new year's resolution has been to pray and grow my personal relationship every day. So if the example above is too uncomfortable, think of other mindless behaviors you do every day.
Here is a thought for you; "The only difference between a rut and the grave is the dimensions" author unknown made me say 🤔
Perhaps, Dr. Seuss said it best in Oh The Places your Will Go,
"The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting."
Random House Books for Young Readers (January 22, 1990)
Then the most important piece in Dr. Seuss's story, you say, NO this is not for me!
Finding your path in a world of social media perfect worlds is confusing. Whatever change you are fighting for has that in-between time of progress, but progress is not a sexy term. When a farmer looks out on his empty field, the crop and money from the harvest can not be seen. But the crop is there, it is in the ground waiting for Spring or rain, it is just waiting on something that will come in time. The farmer does not abandon his field, he tends and weeds it to ensure the successful production and bounty. Progress does not seem as exciting it does not make a huge social media moment but we need to celebrate progress as well.
Doing the same thing over and over again is not insanity if your vision is clear and the path you are taking is an educated and intentional choice. Repetition is not exciting but it is the dedication to yourself to not quit. If you started going to a gym, changing your diet, managing your time better, and it is uncomfortable for you; then you know you are creating meaningful change. This is a moment of celebration, you are making progress!! You are not having one of those moments where you drove home from work but couldn't remember the actual driving you did to get there. You are aware of what you are changing, that behavior you are changing is not going to give up easily. It took hours of Netflix shows and trips to the store for candy or booze or both, to create that belly. Keep fighting for the way you will feel, keep fighting for your own success. If you are not a NYE resolution maker but want to live with more intent in your life I challenge you to;
Here is your action idea, call someone that you have lost touch with. A friend, family member or old colleague that has moved away from you that you miss. Making that one call to say hello and to reconnect with an old friend or colleague will create a spark that leads to making more intentional actions.
Share your stories or challenges of making change sustainable for you!
Or if you need help making change shoot me an email at [email protected] to schedule a free 30-minute coaching session to get you back on track!
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