During a coaching session the other day, a client who's in the middle of a major career transition told me she felt like a squirrel in mid-jump – cut off from the safety of the familiar tree she just left, hurtling through the air toward an uncertain landing pad, flailing her arms and legs to try to get control, struggling to process all the new information coming at her at light speed.
We can all relate. Taking a leap of faith into the unknown can be terrifying. Sure, there's the potential promise of a better future. But the outcome is rarely a sure thing. And frankly, even when we think things are locked in, they're not. Companies fold. Jobs cut get. Relationships end. People die. We can never really be in control of our future. That's what makes change so scary. Why so many never make the leap from one tree to a new one – choosing instead to dig in their claws until they're dragged off their branch kicking and screaming.
Yet, everywhere we look, we see others who seem to thrive on change and adventure. Who leap constantly from branch to branch, finding better and better nuts with each move. How do they do it? And how can we learn to be more like them, to overcome the fear and uncertainty that change brings?
Be more squirrel.
It turns out that we have a lot to learn from these little furballs. And the best place to learn is this brilliant video made by NASA engineer Mark Rober. You remember him – while he was stuck at home during the pandemic, he built a glitter bomb to get revenge on porch pirates stealing his packages. He also built an incredible squirrel ninja warrior obstacle course in his backyard to discourage squirrels from raiding his bird feeder.
Rober's video is not only hilarious but also highly instructional. As he was designing the course, he spent a lot of time studying squirrels. And identified 6 things that we can all do to become more comfortable with trying new things.
1 - Keep your eyes locked on where you want to land. This ensures that everything is aligned toward your ultimate goal and stops you from getting distracted by irrelevant, unimportant things.
2 - Stay loose. Open your mind and body up to work with your momentum and environment, not against them. If you thrash around in a struggle for control, you'll waste precious energy and miss the path you're supposed to take.
3 - Ignore all the so-called rules and norms in your way. If squirrels understood gravity, they'd never attempt half the insane things they succeed at doing.
4 - Enjoy the ride. How often do you get to soar through life, free of all the baggage that was weighing you down on your last branch, with an entire forest of opportunity ahead of you? Hope, anticipation and optimism are powerful emotions. Lean into them.
5 - Trust yourself. Bend your arms and legs, and follow your instincts as you prepare to land.
6 - Never give up. If you want something badly enough, you'll find a way to make it happen.
As the world gets crazier, the only constant continues to be change. You can fight it. Or embrace it. And learn to savour the journey along the way.