Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
We in modern society are far removed from the laws of the jungle, but our overstressed lifestyles still demand that you’d better be running. Such is the culture of America which is why we have an epidemic of medical problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiac disease. Everything is go, go, go; it’s no wonder that Monday mornings have the highest risk for a heart attack – medical research shows a clear spike in the stress hormone cortisol as we confront an overwhelming week ahead with the daunting challenges we’ve created for ourselves. On the bright side, your morning commute may just be in a speeding ambulance zooming by all the cars you are normally with stuck in traffic.
We don’t have to live like this; there is a healthy balance between success and relaxation that we all need to discover and calibrate into our daily lives. We can all benefit from a little self reflection to find potential areas in our life we can dial it back a notch. Making time for ourselves is not a selfish act, but rather a self-love act, and I’m a huge proponent of meditation and taking simple mindful breaks during the day. And, of course, I have written ad nauseum about the benefits of exercise, diet and sleep as all these lifestyle habits contribute to your holistic status on health and can make a profound impact on your wellbeing.
But I continue to meet adrenaline-driven, Type A friends that refuse to take their foot off the gas pedal. They run at turbo speed with a sleep when I die attitude. They keep raising the ante in life, as if in a high stakes poker game, for a bigger house, second car, third big screen TV in a relentless pursuit of material possessions. Motivations vary but it’s typically an aspiration for success, fear of failure and/or hyper-competitiveness that drives them to stress levels that are off the charts. But who are they competing against, and is their definition of success misguided?
Maybe we just need a different orientation from the fable above about the Lion and the Gazelle. Perhaps our perspective should be that we are all gazelles, competing amongst ourselves, eluding the lions. If so, we don’t have to run faster than the fastest lion – we only have to run faster than the slowest gazelle in our pack! This tongue in cheek message shifts the narrative and suggests it’s okay to continue to be ambitious but change your outlook by setting your sights on a lesser competitor: a slower, more feeble and lame member of the gazelle pack. It creates a new attitude toward survival: Welcome to your jungle that is now a healthier habitat. One that minimizes stress factors and focuses more on precious moments, offering greater balance and harmony that brings an inner peace to your life. This subtle shift in lifestyle may just ensure your Monday morning commute is relaxed in a tranquil mental state and not in an ambulance speeding to the hospital.