The intersection outside my university was almost at a standstill this morning but it wasn’t due to the usual peak hour traffic. Instead, at around 7.53am, the cars were slowing to avoid an intrepid bush turkey who’d decided to take that moment to dash across George Street at great personal peril.
The turkey seemed to know where he was heading, kind of, but his route was more than a little random. He set off at rapid sprint from the curb before doubling back, changing direction, stopping, starting, swerving and seeming to change his mind, before moving forward again. He did this several times while the surrounding drivers attempted to avoid turkey carnage and the rest of us watched on, shaking our heads and yes, laughing at his craziness.
That turkey didn’t seem to know what the heck he was doing.
Once he finally made his way to the opposite footpath, he ran headlong into the fence surrounding the botanical gardens (which I presume was his ultimate destination), before doubling back, running a little to the right then the left, then back again before setting off towards the entrance a few metres down. As I passed by, he still hadn’t quite made it and I heard one of the nearby students laughingly say, ‘Those turkeys are soooo stupid.’
The turkey could have taken a direct route across the road. He could’ve waited for the traffic lights and been carried along with the tide of humanity before taking a sharp left turn into the gardens and relative safety. But he didn’t. Instead he didn’t seem to know where he was going. He prevaricated, changed his mind, stopped, started and simply went all over the place in a way that looked quite insane to passersby. His route did not make any sense, and seemed unnecessarily dangerous and time-consuming.
As I walked on to my first class, I laughed a little more to myself when I realised I have also acted like that turkey on a number of occasions. There have been more than a few times in my life when, with a lack of self-belief and no clear direction, I have hurried this way and that in a way that probably seemed mad to the people watching. I would’ve had a goal in mind but I didn’t have a map or a plan on how to get there so I took the most confused road on the way. Most of the time, I eventually got where I wanted to go, but it was not the most seamless or enjoyable journey.
I’ve been observing a friend of mine doing something similar lately and have been shaking my head and thinking, ‘Why doesn’t X just go straight ahead? Can’t they see the signs?’ [It’s funny how life reflects parts of yourself back to you, isn’t it?]
When we don’t have strong self-belief we take longer to get where we want to go because we undermine our choices along the way. We don’t think we deserve that thing we really want so we question ourselves, sometimes seek the conflicting advice of others (which confuses us even more), think we can’t make it, and so on. It makes our journey very challenging, sometimes painful and, to an outsider, we can look a bit like the bush turkey– indecisive, a bit out of control and clueless.
But, here’s what I’ve worked out. Sometimes we just need to believe we deserve what we want, and then we have to go for it. We need to keep that goal clear in our minds and give it everything we’ve got. Backing yourself in this way takes courage but we’ve all got that inside us (even if you’ve buried it for years and years, you can still dig it out if you’re determined). Once you believe you deserve something, a lot of the angst disappears. You will of course have moments of doubt on the road but they won’t derail you and you’ll be less likely to put yourself in dangerous (mental or emotional) situations because you will be clear on what is best for you. Your progress will be a lot less traumatic as a result.
I think the turkey this morning had his goal in mind but his internal monologue was probably something like this…
‘There it is, that’s where I want to go. But, hang on, I can’t. There’s too much in the way.
‘Ooops, sorry, didn’t mean to get in your way. Sorry to inconvenience you. Yes, I know you really are more important than me. Sorry. Maybe I should go back? Yes, you’re probably right. Sorry. I should just go back where I was.
‘But hang on, there it is. I can see the gate. No. I can’t. I don’t really deserve to be there. But I want it. But…no.
‘Hang on. There’s a gap there. Can I get through? Oops, sorry. They’re laughing at me. I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t I get up earlier when there were less people to see me being such a loser…’
Does any of that sound familiar?
Imagine instead, self-talk that went something like this…
‘Okay. I can see where I want to go and I know I deserve it. I know I’m going to make some mistakes on the way, but that’s okay because I’m human and I’m learning.
‘Now, what’s the best way to get there. Mmm. Okay, don’t panic. I got this. Just need to stay calm. Oops, must remember to wait for the green pedestrian light next time, lesson learned. Time to take a breath over here in this safe spot.
‘Hang on, excuse me, you seem to know where you’re going, can I walk along here with you? Thanks. By the way, can you tell me the best way to get to the gate? Oh, this way? Right. Thanks, have a nice day.’
So, my point is this. Sometimes when we’re working things out, when we doubt ourselves and so on, we can look a bit like a bush turkey. And that’s okay. But maybe next time you could be a little kinder to yourself and use positive self-talk instead of the negative kind to help on your journey.
And the next time you see someone ‘doing a bush turkey’ maybe you could cheer them on from the footpath for at least giving it a shot, and maybe give them some helpful directions (or a handful of birdseed).