Of Crab-Catching, Chasing Happiness, and Strategic Sitting and Waiting
What an encounter with some scared crustaceans taught me about how we pursue the important things in our lives
I had the pleasure this past week of visiting Tampa on a business trip. My home base in Illinois has remained relatively cold as of late, so it was nice to spend time in warmer weather. As a bonus, the hotel I was staying at was located within a mile of the beach. Being a Midwesterner, I don’t get the chance to see the ocean much. So of course, I had to take it.
On my first morning there, I set out for a short run. After only a few minutes, I made it to the beach. I made my to a clear spot surrounded on either side by some plant life. As I approached, I noticed a wave of little movements to my right. Upon closer examination, that movement was a whole group of tiny little crabs-scurrying away into some bushes. I moved to a different part of the beach, to get a different vantage point of the beautiful scenery. After a few minutes, I walked back to my initial spot, and was surprised to see that the crabs had reappeared-but were now scurrying away from me once again. Which was unfortunate, as I wanted to capture some video of them doing their cute, crabby things.
I don’t blame them. When you’re all of one inch or so tall, and you see the size 13 shoe of a 6'5″ human frame lumbering toward you, you’re going to scurry away. I just wish I’d have thought about that before stomping back over there. But alas, I had to finish my run, and get ready for the rest of my day.
As I was running back to the hotel, it occurred to me that my brief encounter with the tiny crabs gave me something to ponder. If I really wanted to get close to the crabs- and perhaps grab one or get a great photo op-it would have been much more effective for me to stand still, or even sit down. Given enough time, they likely would have made their way back, and I could have snapped a photo.
There’s a lesson here that’s more general that creating wildlife photo ops. It’s about chasing things-be they concrete living things, or abstract things like goals and fulfillment.
Think about how often we see something we want, like an opportunity to greet the crabs. And we get so excited and desirous. We want it, so we go running all out toward it. And yet for some reason, when it scurries away from us, we are either surprised, or frustrated.
We all have things we want to catch-so to speak. And it can be tempting to run headlong at them, in an attempt to chase them down. But much like the tiny crabs I encountered, many things can end up scurrying away from us the more aggressively we run toward them. We’re so tempted to spring into action and chase things. But there’s always the danger that all of our movement and energy just pushes everything further away from us.
I’ve found this to be the case with happiness. The more aggressively I pursue it-the more I structure my activities around it, the more preoccupied I am with it-the more it seems to scurry away. But it has been those times when I have stilled myself, when I’m not aggressively chasing happiness-that’s when I’ve gotten a taste of it. Doing work for its own sake, serving others, taking care of my health and wellness. That has brought me happiness-even when it involved sacrifice and seemed uncomfortable at first.
Perhaps we need to learn to resist the urge to chase. Perhaps we need to learn to strategically sit. Perhaps then we may be able to find the perfect place to sit and wait. And if we choose that spot wisely, and we remain still, the natural patterns at work around us should bring everything back to where it was-where we are.
Originally published at https://mikesturm.net.