We can learn a lot of lessons from animals.
Over the years I've used a lot of animal analogies, and it always amazes me how much easier it is to relate human behaviors in these examples.
-- Don't yield to helplessness: In cultures that depend on elephants for labor and transportation, it's common to tie untrained elephants by their ankles to a bamboo tree, using heavy-duty rope. After three or four days of trying to free themselves, elephants give up.
From that time on, they can be restrained by tying one leg to a small peg in the ground -- something they surely could escape from with minimal effort. But with little resistance, the elephants don't try to get loose. Despite their superior size, they have learned helplessness.
Do you let your past experiences limit your choices?
-- Leave your mark: Have you ever seen a duck move through water on a lake? You don't see its feet paddling under water, but let me tell you, the duck really moves. The water opens up an angle of at least 40 degrees and ripples as far as 40 or 50 feet, maybe even more.
The duck leaves a wake that's 600 times its actual size. That's a lot of effect from a duck that's only two feet long.
What kind of effect do your actions make?
-- Conquer your fear of failure: The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will land.
As with so many humans, extreme caution gets in the way of success.
-- Don't say no for the other person: In the 1930s, a leading zoologist concluded after careful study that, according to the laws of aerodynamics, it should be impossible for a bumblebee to fly. That is because the size, weight and shape of its body are all wrong in relation to its total wingspread.
Fortunately, no bumblebees have ever studied aerodynamics -- so they just naively keep on doing what they're incapable of doing.
-- Reach your full potential: Flea trainers have observed a predictable and strange habit of fleas while training them. Fleas are trained by putting them in a cardboard box with a top on it. As you watch them jump and hit the lid, something very interesting becomes obvious. The fleas continue to jump, but they are no longer jumping high enough to hit the top.
When you take off the lid, the fleas continue to jump, but they will not jump out of the box. Once they have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that's all they can do.
Many people do the same thing. They restrict themselves and never reach their potential.
-- Do your share: A horseman spied a little sparrow lying on its back in the middle of the road. Reining in his mount, he looked down and inquired of the little creature, "Why are you lying upside down like that?"
"I heard the sky is going to fall today," replied the bird.
The horseman laughed, "And I suppose your spindly little legs can hold up the sky?"
"One does what one can," said the little sparrow.
Are you doing all that you can to keep the sky from falling?
-- Growth involves risk: An oceanographer was asked how a lobster is able to grow bigger when its shell is so hard. The only way, he explained, is for the lobster to shed its shell at regular intervals. When its body begins to feel cramped inside the shell, the lobster instinctively looks for a reasonably safe spot to rest while the hard shell comes off and the pink membrane just inside forms the basis of the new shell.
No matter where a lobster goes for this shedding process, it is vulnerable. It can get tossed against a coral reef or eaten by a fish. The lobster has to risk its life in order to grow.
Unlike the lobster, we have a choice when we resist taking risks because of the fear of failure.
Mackay's Moral: Animals rely on instincts, but we can control our actions.