Last night I was reading to my 9 year old daughter before bed. Lately we’ve been picking up old books from my parents’ and grandparents’ collections so instead of reading from Babymouse or Harry Potter we were reading from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Written in 1902, the stories are a delight of odd language, fantastic creatures, strange mysticism and a healthy dose of humor which give all of us plenty to think about and laugh over. My 15 year old son even puts his phone down to take in a Just So story when the opportunity arises. Last night we were particularly focused on “The Sing-song of Old Man Kangaroo” which happens to be a story about how the kangaroo went from a four-legged creature to a hopping two-legged creature. Here is how the kangaroo was described before his transformation.
“He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.”
The prideful kangaroo goes to the Little God Nqa, Middle God Nqing and finally the Big God Nqong asking them all to…
“Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon.”
Ultimately his wish is granted by the Big God Nqong. But it doesn’t come easily. He is chased around by the Dingo until he can only hop on his back two legs and his front two legs have become too weak to use.
This story brought together a few themes that come up regularly for me and generally for people who are looking for change and improvements in their lives.
There are no magic bullets: I was struck by how the kangaroo resembles so many people who decide that they want to change themselves in some way and expect to have instant gratification, without effort. I certainly have done that and even though I logically realize there are no magic bullets, I have my moments of being shocked by how challenging transformation can be.
Pride or comfort invites change: One of the beautiful things about this precious human life is that just when we think we are confident, or in the case of the kangaroo, proud, we either go looking for change or we experience some sort destabilizing event which forces change. This story serves to remind us that we should really be clear about what sort of change we are looking for, before inviting it out of a sense of pride and comfort. This isn’t to say we should not celebrate our blessings and acheivements. Only be prepared that just when we reach the place we got to, we will naturally move further on in our development.
The cost of transformation: Once we embark on self-improvement or changing some aspect of our lives, we can’t really stop, even when the going gets tough. The very intention to change creates change so the comfortable, prideful place we stood before is no longer the same, no longer satisfying. The cost then of transformation is giving up our comfort; giving up our experience of being an expert and going back to being a beginner again. Whether you are doing body building, learning a new language or skill, or looking to change a habit or behavior, you will absolutely need to put in a little elbow grease to get through and back to the next place of comfort and pride.
Be prepared: The umbrella theme here is that change is inevitable and because it involves some effort and follow through, it is critical that we are prepared mentally and physically. Whether you experience an unexpected destabilizing event or actively invite change you will be better able to work through transformation if you have a healthy mindset, ample support, and really know what your intentions are. Here are some ideas for how to be prepared:
- Work with a coach to identify your core values and establish goals
- Adopt daily practices to help focus your intentions such as mindfulness and/or gratitude practices
- Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth (so you don’t get too prideful like the kangaroo!)
- Eat well
- Get plenty of rest
- Laugh often
- And, as Grandmothers and other wisdom-keepers have said for a long time “be careful what you get good at” or “be careful what you ask for.”
I’ve linked the text of the story above and I’ve add a video below of it being read for those who prefer to listen. Even if you’ve already read my post, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to take in the short story. My post will make more sense if you do, but also, it’s a pure delight!