Finding Nuggets In The Dirt
Mike had decided to do something different for their next meeting as he’d begun to experiment with keeping his senses alive at home and at work. He’d tried eating more slowly to see whether he could really taste his food, although what they served in the staff canteen left little scope for this. He’d also managed to get his boss to agree to more plants on the office floor. They’d started a sample table where the staff could see and touch products from their whole range. Why hadn’t they done this before? So he’d agreed to meet John at the restaurant in the local garden centre. It was quiet on a Tuesday afternoon and it couldn’t do any harm to be surrounded by nature while they talked.
As usual though, John had a surprise waiting. As well as two coffees he had a toy polar bear on the table and next to it was another one, still in its box.
“Go on then” said Mike “tell me about the polar bear.”
John picked it up. “I went to London Zoo once, as a child. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.” He picked up the bear “There was a polar bear, alone in a grey concrete enclosure with a scummy moat at the front. This bear was pacing up and down, pausing only to bang it’s head hard against the wall. Then it would turn, and sway, gently, to the other end where it would bang its head violently against that wall. It had cage fever.”
“Ugh, that’s horrible. Why do you want to remember that?”
“I don’t” said John “I keep this toy to remind me about polar bears in the wild. They play, hunt, run, roll around in snow. Most of all they live joyfully, by polar bear standards at least. And that’s a clue to finding out where you should be, where you fit best and ultimately what you really want. Animals in their natural environment are naturally joyful because it suits them, they fit. Look at sparrows hopping about or lions roaming around the plains.
Put an animal in an artificial environment and very soon you get deviant, self destructive, behaviour. Caged birds will pull out their own fur, some animals refuse to breed, some engage in meaningless, repetitive actions. They display signs of something close to madness.
Why should it be any different with humans? Take a living, breathing, young person and shut them up away from the sun and rain in a monotone environment with recycled air and what do you get? After a few years they have no possible way of understanding where they naturally fit.”
He handed Mike the boxed polar bear. “And this one’s for you, to remind you of the Seventh Way, the easiest and the hardest of all the things we have looked at.”
Mike started unwrapping the polar bear and looked it in the eye “What do you mean by easiest and hardest?”
“It’s easy because all you have to do is find the place where you are at your most joyful. And it’s hard because finding that place is going to take some work and some thinking. Before we start, though, let me ask you a different question. If you are a square peg in a round hole then which is easier – to shave off your corners until you fit or to go and find a square hole?”
“That’s easy! Find a square hole of course.”
“You’d think so wouldn’t you? But you’d be surprised how tenaciously we cling to the wrong place at the wrong time. In truth, it’s quite hard to acknowledge that we are in the wrong place and move somewhere else. We seem programmed to make the best of where we are and scared to do anything else.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just warning you that while the Seventh Way is the easiest of all the things I’ve suggested, it’s not going to feel like the easiest. In fact it might feel like an awful lot of work. Are you OK with that?”
Mike nodded. “Where do we start?”
John picked up the polar bear again. “Consider this. I’m sure there are some people who are naturally joyful and expressive in a corporate environment but if you’re not, then how do you sort out where you ‘fit’ best. How do you find your square hole, the ideal environment where you are naturally joyful and expressive? The Seventh Way is to approach the problem backwards and search hard for all those times when you have been at your most joyful. Put them all together and see what that tells you about the place, environment or surroundings where you will be at your best.”