The Lion Sleeps Tonight
It was a simple goal, to get a photograph with a white lion cub called Boris – his trainer was there, his friends were there and it was in an enclosure, how hard could this be? Apparently very!
The first problem was that the lion had just been in a photo shoot with two models in bikinis in Cape Town. He looked at me in my cargo pants, possibly two generations up and obviously thought “…and the point is?” I don’t read lion body language but grumpy, jetlagged and unresponsive seemed to describe it and the photo was not happening. Plan B was then hatched to involve his friends as motivators.
This plan however was also flawed as the first companion was a young hyena, who permanently sniffed, nibbled and pushed to either assert dominance or show submissiveness depending on the fear you showed and who went for the limelight every time I aimed at the lion, with a “pick me, I’ve not been with a model” attitude. At the crucial moment as I was focusing he camera, I felt a warm pressure at an area that was unnerving to say the least (and that for a male would be downright scary) this was not helped by the newly learned fact that Hyenas have the strongest jaws in the mammal kingdom and now that he sensed fear, he wouldn’t move.
There is a saying that “obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal”- having a hyena at your crotch was definitely one of those obstacles. Another companion was a cow (they all lived together in a kind of animal commune- “we’re actors darling”) who just leaned on anyone that stood still long enough and as I got near the lion I would end up with a photo of the sky as he inexorably leaned in at the crucial moment. He was obviously not interested in what I was doing and eventually let me know that he was bored with the whole thing by turning his back on me, chewing his cud and staring mournfully at the grass emitting an occasional disapproving “moo”.
The other mammalian elements were the dogs. There were two retrievers who just wanted to play, chase around madly, and play fetch and although I couldn’t see them as I once again focused the lens, they were apparently enjoying themselves immensely judging by the noise. The other dogs were a Jack Russell and a Labrador, the faithful companions who were the best friends of the lion and who had also been on the photo shoot to keep the lion company. They at least didn’t give me hassle and stayed in the background unless needed.
After an hour the goal wasn’t looking good and the snarl from Boris was quite convincing for one so young, so we retreated and I went to look at the photos, disappointed at the failure of my goal.
There was not one good photo of “me with lion cub” and “me with cow” didn’t quite have the same ring. I evaluated my goal; I wanted the photo to promote a workshop involving the lion and it’s also an impressive one for the photo album.
I had focused on it with hyper-attention, put the action in and now because I had failed, I was unhappy. In Life Coaching there are certain assumptions that help with solving problems and moving forward.These include ‘there is no failure only feedback’, ‘there is no problems only outcomes’, ‘instead of necessity, focus on possibility’ and ‘change from assumption and fact to curiosity and fascination’. I was focusing too much on the failure and the problem rather than on the feedback that was highlighting the need to reassess and choose an alternative desired outcome, I was hanging on to what I saw as necessary for success and the assumptions that led to this success instead of what other possibilities there could be, so I relooked at the photos again and came across one photo with new eyes.
If a photo can say a thousand words here was my feedback and the problems with goal setting- and at least I now knew what the dogs had been doing! Sometimes the goal we are seeking is grumpy or unresponsive, it maybe requires synchronicy or better timing- or it wants feeding. Sometimes there are people who are the scavengers of our valuable time, that sabotage our goal or there are other urgent things that demand attention, the annoying ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ in our life that we can’t disregard because they have lethal jaws.
Sometimes there are the ‘leaners’, the people who are bored with what we are trying to do,they sit around just chewing the cud waiting for you to fail. Sometimes there is pressure for you to conform and work with the familiar rather than follow the new and exciting.
Then there are the other distractions to achieving our goal, the fun things that seem more appealing or in some cases a need for stress release, a break or just time to chill. In amongst the problems there are, however, also support systems that compensate, the people that will follow you and your goal, showing values of loyalty, steadfastness and companionship and that show curiosity in what we are trying to achieve, helping us focus on possibility rather than problems.
If I had the choice again to attain the goal of “me with lion” to frame for my ego and show others or a photo that makes me laugh whenever I see it, I would still go with the latter.
We are more successful when we are concerned about well being rather than how well we are doing and a successful outcome is only possible when we can find happiness in where we are, rather than chasing goals that were not aligned or congruent with our values or needs at the time.
So when setting your outcomes, instead of asking “why am I doing this” which elicites justifications and reasons around the problem,ask the question of “how can I bring more of what I value into my life” which will lead to better understanding of the structure of the problem and align our deeper motivations and values that underpin happiness.
If your ‘lion’ is sleeping, here are some tips:
- If your goal involves others, be prepared for surprises and frustrations
- Goals may require synchronicity or better timing to happen, let it unfold
- There may be a better goal if you realign your outcome to what you value
- There is no failure, only feedback so make sure you are listening
- Sometimes you need to walk away from the goal and find another possibility
- Find a goal that makes you happy/smile/laugh –we need it If there’s a hyena at your pants, deal with it first!