The Ant and the Petal
Nature has always amazed me. The variety of species of plants and animals, and how something new appears to fill in a space where it is needed – a new predator, a new prey. A forest burns down and new shoots rise from the ashes. Nature has a persistence unequalled.
I was watching an ant about half a centimetre in length, carrying a petal at least ten times it’s own size, up the wall to some place it recognises as home. Regardless of the small cracks in the wall facade, that would be massive ditches to us, this little ant didn’t stop; it took each obstacle in it’s step, as it turned up and overcame it.
All it did was that it kept going forward. The ant may not have the awareness of what it’s actually doing, it may not understand what it’s actions mean or imply, but we, as conscious beings, have no such excuse.
We’re all aware of the ability of small insects and the amazing strength they have. What we don’t recognise is that these creatures, this ant, employ the characteristics which if any of us would employ in our daily lives, we would achieve anything we set our mind on. And the ant doesn’t even recognise, understand or know that it’s doing it – it has no self awareness (as far as we know).
For the next few minutes I would like you to put yourself into that little ants place.
You’ve got the petal in your pincers and in front of you is a vertical wall you’ve got to climb. You know you can go up there because you’ve done it before. Infact, you’ve done it so many times that it doesn’t even enter your mind.
So you have DECIDED that you are going to go up the wall and that you are going to take that petal to your home. You’re not thinking if it’s going to be easy or hard, you just know that the petal has to go into your home. You’ve set your GOAL.
So you take the first step and before you know it you are on the wall, climbing vertically, carrying this awkward petal with you. The only thing that keeps you going is that thought that you want that petal in your home. You also know that at some point you’re going to get there and you will have achieved your goal.
So you keep going. It’s the DISCIPLINE inside you that keeps you moving forward because you have made the decision to keep moving until that petal is in your home.
You climb over bumps, go into and out of small and large troughs but you keep going – you PERSIST regardless of the external circumstances. Even if it rained and you got wet you’d still keep going forward.
Decision, Goal, Discipline, Persistence. You use those four traits of character to get that petal into your home.
When you do reach it, as I’m without doubt that the little ant did as well, you place the petal down and head back out for the next challenge. Unlike the ant, however, we, human beings, feel that sense of achievement, the exhilaration of completing a hefty task.
The ant may go back out and get a petal that’s smaller, a grain anything that will benefit the whole nest, not just itself. It will do the same thing again and again never realising what it’s doing.
We don’t have that excuse, that benefit of ignorance. Most people will never become aware because they don’t know that what they are doing is living the life of an ant. But they are aware of hardships, happiness, lack and prosperity.
The ant has no awareness of it’s life. We are.
Just like the ant, we have the opportunity to use those traits shown by the ant, to better our lives. And it will take EFFORT. Changing the way we do things to better our life starts by becoming aware of where we are in life. Then we have to know what we want. That is also an awareness.
We are not an ant. We are not anything but the highest form of intelligence we know of on this planet. We are the only ones that can choose where to live, how to live and how to go about our life. We have choices. The rest of the living things on our planet don’t have those choices. The closest it comes to are the cockroaches and foxes, which also adapt to their environment almost as well as we do.
But they don’t think as we do. They are not able to put into practice the traits of character that we all have embedded in us – active or dormant. But they are there.
What of the ant? Use it as a reminder, not of what the ant does but to remind you of the traits you need to get to the end of a goal, somewhere you want to get to.
Take the photograph for this post as an example of those traits, in particular persistence. The first people to reach the summit of that mountain were Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Since then many have followed, each one of them having to take each step up the mountain to reach the summit.
The photo was taken by a friend who made the DECISION to climb the mountain and reach the summit, PERSISTING with every step to do so.
Is it easy? NO, otherwise everyone would do it. That’s the point – it’s the difficulty that makes it unique, why persistence is a trait needed to reach your own summit.
Is that all it will take? No, not always. Sometimes we need help, sometimes we fall and have to get up again, other times we get stuck because of some belief or old habit.
Pick up your “petal”, choose your summit, whatever that may be and realise one thing – completing it has nothing to do with anyone else or your environment, including your circumstances. Getting your “petal” home, reaching your summit really is all up to you.
There may be no heroic connotation to the word “persistence”, but the quality is to the character of man what carbon is to steel.
Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich”