By Katrina Boguski
The squirrels and chipmunks in my yard have been stocking up for some time already, stashing food originally intended for birds. I would be tempted to scold them for their thieving antics, but they are so amusing to watch that my only response is to replace what they have stolen. Besides, they are only acting on instinct and are merely gathering what they need to get themselves through the winter.
We could all take a cue from these little creatures, or better yet, we could leverage our similar instincts and use them to stock up on things that will be useful to us and those around us as we head toward the colder months.
Our instincts are in action much of the time. As social creatures, when human beings notice others doing something, we have a tendency to mimic the behaviours and expressions of others. Perhaps you have found yourself yawning spontaneously after witnessing someone do the same. In fact, you might even be suppressing a yawn now just from merely reading the word.
If so, here is roughly what happened. You read the word, you thought about yawning and your instincts took over from there. You weren’t yawning before you read the word yawn or before you saw someone else yawning. You didn’t need to decide to initiate the response, it was automatic, like the actions of the squirrels. The sight of someone else yawning or perhaps the mere mention of the word yawn had you instinctively responding with a similar action. If you are still yawning, remember it is because the idea was suggested to you, not because this editorial is so boring.
We’ve been living through some pretty heady times of late and most of us are grasping at whatever straws we find available just to make sense of the chaos. One thing that makes social creatures feel secure is knowing that they can make sense of the chaos in a way that is similar to how others make sense of it. At the beginning of the pandemic, somebody thought it was important to purchase extra toilet paper. Witnessing this behavior, others followed suit. You yourself might have grabbed a few extra rolls, just in case.
This same instinct to follow can help us to lead. If you want people around you to behave a particular way, exhibit that behaviour first and start the trend. The wisdom to do unto others is not just good folk wisdom, it is great emotional intelligence.
Here are some things you might want to stock up on by making the first move.
Stock up on sleep; the bears have a wisdom we could emulate.
Stock up on patience; learning how to deal with minor irritations will brace you for the big ones.
Stock up on forgiveness; you never know when you will need to be forgiven, so practice forgiving others first to understand the benefits.
Stock up on kindness; it is a commodity often in short supply.
Train yourself to exhibit the behaviours you wish to see in others.
The Greek poet Archilochus said, “We do not rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
We need to practice kindness in a more deliberate fashion. We may balk at the manners and etiquette that previous generations taught in family homes and finishing school, but we might also remember that this sort of training helped condition many people to maintain their cool in difficult situations.
When we stock up on behaviours and attitudes that help people feel secure, we all benefit. Many people have had their store of patience worn low with some good reason. We can all help them restock it by being a little more patient ourselves.