I absolutely love hermit crabs; I have since childhood. They are so intriguing and they have a lot to teach us about taking risks in order to grow.
A Hermit Crab’s Life
Unlike other crustaceans, Hermit Crabs don’t grow their own shells when it is time to expand. Instead, they take up lodgings in a shell that has been cast off, such as a snail shell. It’s an efficient system, made more so by a procedure of co-operation and management of resources. This BBC video, narrated by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, shows how a housing chain is set up when a large “des res” becomes available.
All the time that the Hermit Crab remains in its shell it is safe, but it will eventually need to take a risk and move to a new house, if it is to grow. Whilst it is moving to another shell it is vulnerable to attack. However, if it doesn’t move it will die, as the shell becomes too small for it.
What Can We learn?
To grow, survive and thrive, we have to face up to taking risks:
- to try something new
- to say no to a request when we usually say yes
- to say yes to an opportunity when we usually say no
- to change jobs
- to leave a relationship
- to challenge bad behaviour
- to move house
All these things take a certain amount of risk as we step outside of what is familiar and safe. Taking a risk stimulates our Limbic system and we feel fear – as if we were under threat of death. I’ve written about some of this here.
But unless we face these things, we stagnate, shrink even. Our outlook shrinks, our options shrink and our opportunities shrink. To make the most of what we have, we need to take chances and risk what we have. Sometimes we lose, but even if we lose, we gain learning.
So What If We Do Lose?
Mark Twain said
“Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”
When we get things wrong we learn. When we get things right we grow. But if we never try we gain nothing.
A Hermit Crab hides in its shell for safety, but sometimes it leaves that safety in order to gain something new and of value. We could learn a lot.
Cartoons by Janet Webb, who had a go at something new.