What Is Your Spirit Animal?

Earlier this week a Ninja sent me  a link to “Workout Shirts to Not Workout In” and he was fully aware that I would want all of them.  The shirts, inspired by fan culture, come from Look Human.

Fascinated by the original Buzzfeed article, I clicked through the site.  It was a good time, until I came across this shirt:

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I took a moment to think about it, and I started to get mad.  It made me recall something that Charlie Weingroff said at the Perform Better Summit this summer:

“Animals are stronger than us, they’re faster than us, they have amazing recovery abilities:  I want what they have.”

I’m curious about what specific abilities bunnies have?  They’re great at eating carrots.  They’re snuggly.  Perhaps that helps them in the wild?  Oh no, here comes a fox!  ::Snuggle mode engaged:: CHOMP. Let’s raise a glass to Charles Darwin.

When I think about “Spirit Animals” I don’t think about which animal best exudes your personality.  Animals are more focused on survival and reproduction than we tend to be.  Let’s look at movement.  What animal has the physical abilities that you want?

Hold that thought.

The notion that eating like a bunny and running like a cheetah can be part of a healthy lifestyle bothered me, because of the inherent discrepancies between the two animals.  That’s like saying that you want a Prius that performs like a Corvette.  After a certain level of performance, we favor certain qualities over others.  This is a natural process, but one that we have to understand.

As humans, we design our training programs, diets, and lifestyles based on what we want or think we need, versus what we actually need.  Our personal preferences cloud our judgement and influence decisions, and ultimately that perception is everything.

We want to eat vegan because the agricultural industry is a mess, we want to train 14 times per week because some Bulgarian Weightlifters did it, we want to run marathons every weekend.  On one hand, we did not evolve to do any of this.  On the other; we evolved, and we continue to do so.  We can’t see it from one generation to the next, but in the 21st century, our biggest challenge will be adapting to the stress inducing environment that we’ve created, and continuing to create strategies to reduce stress.  Ironic, isn’t it?

For everyone who’s health is negatively impacted by staring at their screen to read this, by the florescent bulbs in their office, or by their 9th trip to McDonald’s this week, there’s someone else who is doing the same exact thing and thriving.  How different is that survival from that of the person who is stressed out about incandescent bulbs and candles, having a stand-up desk to feel more active, and having food with every pretentious sounding label whole foods can throw on it?

Yea, we manufacture stress.

The goal isn’t to eliminate or even minimize stress, but to understand where it comes from.  When it comes to making health decisions, we make things far more stressful than they need to be.  If your diet is appropriate for bunnies, but you’re running like a cheetah, you’re not going to last very long.  If you’re eating is fit for an elephant but you’re moving at their intensity, you’re not going to last very long.  Let’s look at that question again:  What is your spirit animal?

There’s no right answer, but perhaps some wrong ones.  I’m not going to tell you that you can’t be a koala, but I’m not going to put my money on koala’s for long-term survival.  I also like critters a little bit more cuddly than sharks.  The thing is, it’s all about what you want to do.

Perhaps your goal is to be an explorer, like this:

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Perhaps you want to be explored, like this:

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Regardless of what your personal goals are, at a certain level, you have to embody characteristics of multiple animals.  This means that we want different traits in different situations, and that goes directly against the Bunny and Cheetah dichotomy I created earlier.  That’s because nothing is set in stone.

There are times when we want the speed of a cheetah, or the upper body strength of a monkey, or the endurance of a horse.  Hell, there are even times we want to dance like that dog.  Or maybe, you want even better abilities!  Your spirit animal may be one thing in your head, but we need to be aware of the diverse abilities throughout the animal kingdom, so that we can learn from them as much as possible.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.  In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

Sure, you may have one spirit animal in your head, but you better be open to change as your goals evolve and grow.  We’ve come this far because of our ability to rapidly respond to new challenges.  If we become too focused on one specific strategy, or fail to realize the many possibilities around us, we’ll slowly make our way to the endangered species list.

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