Learning from Squirrel Behaviour

I received a call from someone who had attended our problem solving and decision making course yesterday, his opening comment was “My Head is in Bits”!

This individual has had a tremendous amount of work on his radar recently, amongst a whole variety of demands he is also reorganising his department and implementing a new procurement system, and now faced with writing an assignment which was already a week overdue, he found himself stuck, cluttered, unable to see woods for trees.

While tackling the issue I was reminded of the example of the squirrel and the trusting mindset a mindset of accomplishment discussed in John Eliot’s book overachievement.

Take the Leap of Faith

The squirrels scurry along the fence at the back of my garden, they always appear energised by a sense of purpose, as they traverse without hesitation across the fence leaping back and forth into the trees do you imagine that they are thinking

“Careful now think about your technique, because you could fall”?

No of course not, in fact the squirrel isn’t thinking at all His response is automatic and based upon trust of his experience, skill, training and knowledge to successfully see him through his leap of faith.

This is what John Eliot describes as the trusting mindset; the trusting mindset is empty of anything except the target that presents at that particular moment.  The trusting mindset is confident instinctive, accepting, patient and happy to allow things to develop.

Avoiding Self Sabotage  

Unlike the squirrel our brains are a little more sophisticated and this can work against us. Relying on a closed loop process the squirrel is reactive to the environment. We share this ability but our well developed cerebral cortex also contains open loop processes and these open loops allow incoming stimuli and thoughts that can sabotage our thinking. Eliot describes this state as The Training Mindset in this state we are focused upon the goal yet we are being judgemental, analytical and critical while we are working, evaluating every move to see how it can be improved. While these behaviours are helpful if we are practicing, they are a distraction when actually executing the task. This is where my client was yesterday.

Think Less – Act More

When the stakes are high whether you are delivering a presentation, or promoted as an expert the ability to rely on your training, experience, and instincts, will serve you much better than constantly thinking about your performance. We tend to have a long memory for mistakes and a short or memory for successes being over analytical can be a guaranteed way to develop fear of failure.

Your Thinking Cap

Although squirrel behaviour is fluent and filled with purposive energy, it can appear rather chaotic and to avoid chaos a little thought before execution is best. You see, this is where we have an advantage over the squirrel and that advantage is foresight the ability to plan and think ahead.

Squirrels do not have foresight because squirrels have eyes on the sides of their heads. They cannot see what is in front of them.  

 Apply your inner squirrel thinking at the right time!


3 responses to “Learning from Squirrel Behaviour

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Learning from Squirrel Behaviour « Spectrain's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Hi Joy,

    I like the squirrel mentality.

    You make a sound case for breaking out of that perennial problem of “Analysis Paralysis”

    I’ll take away your words of wisdom and remember that sometimes the best thing to do is just to do something and stop thinking.

    Great blog, thank you!


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