Walking has become something I am trying to do more lately, a way of reducing stress and building overall wellbeing. One afternoon on one of my walks, I found a small green space where the beavers had been very busy.
As I walked around this little park, I saw all the damage the beavers had done to the trees by the edge of the water. I know beavers do this but this looked different to me somehow, bolder and more daring. The trees that were down were very large mature trees. I couldn’t get my arms around the trees they were so big. I began to marvel at the determination of the beaver. I got excited about their boldness and I thought, there is a metaphor for us here, a lesson in this beaver felled tree.
The problems we face in life can sometimes feel so big – so large in fact that we believe we can’t possibly tackle them. We survey this huge task in front of us and just get stalled at the enormity of what we are facing. As I looked at those trees, I began to realize that the beaver did not let the enormity of the task stop them. They began one step at a time to tackle the tree and did not let the size stop their movement towards the goal. How can we learn from this picture? What are the lessons we could pull out of this?
Psychology uses a term called “chunking”. It’s the idea that we take something that feels overwhelming and break it down into small manageable tasks that we can accomplish. This means taking a step back from the larger problem and looking at the steps that can get us to the ultimate goal of accomplishing the bigger task. Think of it being a 10-12 step process. The first step towards wanting to start to exercise may be getting the names of the gyms nearby. After breaking down the problem into steps, then focus on one task at a time rather than the whole task. This is much more manageable.
The beaver has taught us a lesson. We can take these huge trees in front of us and begin to break them down into small manageable tasks. One step at a time we can begin to tackle taking down the tree. The focus has changed – the small manageable task is the goal. As we complete that first task, we start to feel successful and the next step might be easier to take on. Then, one step at a time, the tree comes down.
Grateful for the lesson of the beaver today.
Corrina Arnold Is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Yale Therapy Group and has been a counsellor for over 20 years.