The Impala in you
The other day I was listening to a podcast that was quite interesting; interesting because it had illustrations based on the lives of animals in it. Those of you who have been following me for many years obviously know that I love animals and especially dogs. For a change though, this illustration had nothing to do with dogs but all the same it had quite a captivating story, and hence my remembering it till now. But first let’s talk about the fish that were also part of this illustration…
While listening to the podcast, the motivational speaker mentioned something about fish that I had never thought possible. Did you know that there are some species of fish that will only grow in proportion to the size of the fish tank they are in? What this translates to is that if you want a certain fish not to grow to a certain size, then all you need to do is make sure that you put that fish in a tank smaller than its usual size; in other words, you stunt its growth by putting it in an environment that does not support its optimal size. Amazing.
As I was listening to this I couldn’t help but imagine the similarities between human beings and this fish. You see, many of us never really grow to our full potential because the environment we are in stunts our growth. When I say growth I am not necessarily referring to physical growth (though this can also be affected) but more so mental and spiritual growth.
The environment in which you put your mind will always determine your mental growth. For instance, where do you allow your mind to spend most of its time? Is it in a pond that helps it grow or is it in a pond that causes it to stunt? When I say a pond that helps it grow I mean an environment that gives your mind an opportunity to expand, an opportunity to become progressive. For instance, do you read books that help you develop your mind? Do you watch movies or documentaries that help expand your mind and your thinking? Do you spend time with people who challenge you to become a better person? Do you take time to think and explore the possibilities life has presented you with? Do you have goals you have set for yourself, etc? Now that is a pond that helps your growth. A pond that stunts your growth does the direct opposite.
It’s important that you monitor what thoughts you are feeding into your mind because your thoughts create your belief and experiences. You have positive thoughts and you have negative ones too. Nurture your mind with positive thoughts: kindness, empathy, compassion, peace, love, joy, humility, generosity, etc. The more you feed your mind with positive thoughts, the more you can and will attract great things into your life.
Going back to the podcast I was listening to, the motivational speaker then started talking about the African Impala. By the way did you know that the word “Impala” is Zulu for “Gazelle”? I didn’t either but now I know and so do you. I also didn’t know that the Impala is from the family of antelopes. But one thing I did know is that the impala is one of the most graceful creatures found in the African wild. If the impala were a human being, you’d probably say she is sexy; you know, with a slender figure (figure 8 as they would say in the hood), a long graceful neck, long legs and nicely adorned hands, not forgetting the naturally done makeover. They always look like they have applied mascara and eyeliner. Anyway, moving on…
There is one particular characteristic that really surprised me about this agile animal. Did you know that this animal is capable of clearing formidable obstacles and run at speeds faster than 60km/h? They use their tremendous speed and agility to avoid being attacked by predators, and also for pure enjoyment. When I say formidable obstacles I am referring to their ability to scale heights. This animal can leap up to 3m above ground and 10m in length! And they do this for fun too! But that is not what caught my attention.
Picture this, you have an animal that has the ability to jump up to 3m high and 10m in length. However, when you go to the zoo, you will find this same animal timidly sitting at a corner in a 3-foot tall roofless cage, completely subdued and living a life that it should not be living. So why can’t it use the agility it has to jump out of the cage and find its freedom? What I found out was amazing.
The impala will not jump if it is unable to see the spot where its feet will land. So, even though it can jump several feet higher than the wall surrounding it in the zoo, it will not jump because the 3-foot wall obstructs its sight of the outside where freedom waits. Because it cannot see where it is going, it chooses not to jump, even though it could. As a result of this it remains contained in a small cubicle and ends up living a life not meant for it.
And so do many human beings.
Many people today are living their lives behind a 3-foot tall wall because they do not know what lies beyond that wall. They have no vision. Friends I have spoken many times about having a vision, a goal, a dream for your life. It is this goal/dream that acts as a roadmap for your life, it guides you and shows you where you are going. This is like the GPS system in your car which once you feed it with the destination you are heading to, it keeps telling you where to take the next turn and if you make a wrong turn it recalibrates and tells you how to get back on track.
The reason the impala will not jump when behind a wall is because it has no vision of where it will be going; it needs to know there is a solid ground beneath its hooves for it to move swiftly across the plains. It needs to be certain that where it is going there are no predators lurking behind some bush somewhere waiting for it to jump. Now if an animal like the impala that has a small head and eats grass and looks like a goat and obviously doesn’t know how to read, write or talk can have the sense to not take any step unless there is clear vision for it to follow, how much more is it expected of us as human beings, who are supposed to be superior to this animal?
We are already past the halfway mark of this 11th month of the year 2016. If you look back at the time that has passed since 1st January 2016, what would you say you have achieved with your life? Have you made any strides in life or are you still living behind a 3-foot tall wall that you could easily scale over if you wanted to? Is it possible that you are still behind that wall because you had no clear vision of where you wanted to be by the end of 2016? I don’t know what your answer to this question is but the good news is, you can always decide to make a decision today to get out of that cage and live your life to the fullest.
I have said this before and today I will say it again, “today is the beginning of the rest of your life”. It doesn’t matter whether you faltered somewhere along the year but you have today to regroup your thoughts, write your vision if you didn’t have one and start following it. If you do this, next year same time will be very different for you, but you have to start today if you want to see any changes in the long run.
I love what Roy T. Bennett said in his book “The Light in the Heart”. He said, “Create a vision for the life you really want and then work relentlessly towards making it a reality”.
And remember, it is not how you start but how you finish that matters.
PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 20th November, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".