What can a lobster teach you about growth?

We can often feel anxious about change.

Our natural instinct is to remain safe in order to survive.  Change is an unknown landscape where we can’t predict what will happen.  We believe it is better to remain within our “comfort zone”.  However if we do this, we will without question limit our potential for growth.

In order to dive into this a little deeper, I am going to refer to a video of the psychiatrist Rabbi Abraham Twerski describing the process that lobsters go through in order to grow, as a way to understand why change feels uncomfortable.

The lobster is a squishy animal inside a hard outer shell.  The outer shell cannot increase in size, so how can the lobster grow?  It turns out that the lobster needs to shed its shell many times during its lifetime.  In fact lobsters spend most of their time either preparing for, or recovering from this process.  The trigger for the lobster to shed its shell is that it feels confined, it is uncomfortable because its shell is too small for it.

When it is time to shed the shell, the lobster finds a rock to hide beneath.  The shedding process requires a huge amount of energy, and the lobster is completely helpless until the new larger shell has hardened up, which can take several days.  The new shell is not fully hardened for several months.

So what can we take from this when thinking about change and growth in our lives?

I think it tells us that:

  • We know it’s time for change when things don’t feel “right”
  • Growth requires us to push past our current “barriers” or comfort zone.
  • We need to accept that we will feel vulnerable as we go through the process, and that it can take a lot of effort.
  • Change and growth is a natural part of life.

On a personal note

I am going through this process myself right now.  I have left the safety of my home town and proximity to my friends and parents.  I have given up a well-established career.  I have moved to a new part of the country, and am in the process of building a business in a sector where I am an unknown.  So if we break it down lobster-style:-

  • The decision came about because I felt I could offer more/grow more through coaching people who also felt the need for change. I was no longer comfortable coaching within the confines of the needs of the company.
  • I have been an employee for over half my lifetime, going out on my own is definitely outside of my comfort zone.
  • I feel very vulnerable, I have no outer shell at this time. I have dig deep and grow it through hard effort and commitment.
  • I know that it is absolutely the right thing to do.

Next time you are feeling anxious about change try this little exercise.

  1. Breathe in.
  2. Hold your breath for as long as you can (without passing out).
  3. Feel how uncomfortable it is, your lungs want to explode, your entire body tenses up, your blood seems to race about your body. You may even feel a little vulnerable.
  4. Now let go, breathe out.
  5. Enjoy the sensation of release, your body relaxes, everything softens and is easy.

We breathe in and out all day long.  Our breath in changes to a breath out, in and out, continuously without any drama.

It is only when we try to resist it that we struggle.  So try and relax into the process, accept that it’s a necessary part of life.  It will be scary, you will feel vulnerable, but if you resist it you will only feel worse.

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