Sh**t happens: what’s important is how you respond
Much of my life is spent cleaning up after horses, which believe it or not has taught me a lot about life and overcoming challenges. There are many colourful expressions which use manure to describe various setbacks in life; in other words, shit happens but we must deal with it somehow!
Did you know that a single horse produces 5 – 9 tons of manure every year? We keep 10 horses here, so it’s fair to say I spend a lot of my life shovelling shit (excuse my French throughout this article).
It might sound tedious, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t, but there are some real positives. I can make the best of it: enjoy the time it allows me to spend with my animals, in the outdoors, giving me space to listen to music and podcasts and, importantly, do some uninterrupted deep thinking.
That’s why I think there’s a lot everyone can learn about life – both personally and professionally – from what comes out of a horse’s behind (yes, really), especially when we’re overcoming obstacles in this uncertain age.
Pushing shit uphill
Recently, my colleagues, Kari Fulmek and Carolyn Charles, from Equine Connection – The Academy of Equine Assisted Learning in Canada, told me a story that’s funny and stressful in equal measure. They were hit by an unprecedented cold snap which meant all ten of their horses had to spend an entire week inside an indoor arena.
Any idea what piled up over that week? Yep, you guessed it.
They found themselves shovelling constantly and by the end there were still piles everywhere. However, while the task of keeping the arena clean may have felt like pushing shit uphill (literally), they kept going.
When obstacles come your way, you have the choice. You either stick your head in the sand (well, not sand in this incidence) or you start shovelling.
We all need to ask ourselves questions when we hit challenging times and feel as if everything is piling up around us.
We have a choice: love it; leave it, or; change it!
Clearing the pile
Here are a few of the ways I find help me make my way through these steaming piles of unpleasantness – metaphorically and literally.
- Do little things but do them consistently. In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, world-renowned habits expert, James Clear, says that, “people think that when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits.”
- When things are overwhelming, share them. Often, after you’ve spoken to someone else, you’ll realise it’s never as bad as it seems. As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved.”
- Prioritise what really matters. If all you see is the shit you’ll be overwhelmed. Look beyond to what’s important.
- Consider whether some tasks are worth taking on at all. If you’re agreeing to too many projects which create more mess than they’re worth, it can affect your productivity.
- Pick a path. Think of the first path you want to shovel. Maybe you can’t do it all at once but what you do today counts. Not only will it contribute to the overall solution but give you confidence to keep going.
- Don’t let the state of the arena affect who you are. Never let it undermine you and your values. Separate yourself and your goals from the shit in the arena. Does it really matter that much? Eventually, it decomposes.
- It all depends on how you view the shit. In her TEDTalk, How to make stress your friend, Kelly McGonigal, talks about changing your mindset around stress to create a happier and healthier life. Her says that we can trust ourselves that we can handle life’s challenges and strengthen our own resilience through allowing the body’s physiological reaction to do its job. This is a compelling talk, based on solid scientific evidence.
What are some ways you make it through the shit life can throw your way? Let us know in the comments! For more information or to subscribe to our updates please comment below or email email@example.com