Reality Check: The Battle of the Hummingbirds

If you have a hummingbird feeder, then you know the routine. A single hummingbird will sit on a perch and eat. But add another, and suddenly everybody is flitting around, hovering, staring, chasing, and squawking.

More energy is spent bothering about the others than what’s gained by eating!

Do you think each hummingbird is blaming the other for “making” them hover, stare, and chase?

As a human observer, it’s easy to see that all the hummingbirds would be better off if they would ignore the other guys and just sit down and eat. There are plenty of perches and plenty of food.

Oh, wait—that observation applies elsewhere!

While it might not be as obvious as the activity at the hummingbird feeder, many human endeavours involve spending a lot of energy hovering around, staring at, and chasing the other guy. Sometimes there’s squawking, too.

For example, we might speculate about what someone else has, earns, takes, and gives. We might compare and believe that someone has something that we don’t, and perceive that to be unfair.

A potentially destructive outcome is when we believe it’s ok to take what someone else has because it “should” be distributed better; that is, according to our perception of what’s right.

Is that helpful? Is there another way?

Consider the hummingbirds—fighting instead of taking care of their own business and their own needs. The perches are there. To get what they need however, requires a choice: the choice to sit down at a perch instead of bothering with the others.

So if you find yourself choosing unhappiness about what someone else has or seems to have, try these perspectives:

  1. Remember that you don’t truly know what someone else’s life is like. The person who always seems so cheerful may be battling all kinds of challenges about which you have no clue. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And just because someone chooses to adopt an optimistic attitude doesn’t mean that everything comes easy to them.
  2. Do you know what you want? It’s unlikely you’ll get it unless you know what it is! Do you really want what the other person has? Remember that they have the same 24 hours each day that you do, but they may be putting their energy into different priorities than you are. Maybe you can “have it all” if you interpret “all” as your priorities—what really matters. First, you need to figure those out.
  3. Are you doing what you need to do to achieve what you want? While the hummingbird just needs to sit at the perch and eat, humans usually have to do more.

Do you spend your energy complaining about others, drawing comparisons, or blaming them for why you are still fluttering around the feeder and not sitting on the perch? Is that working well for you? Or is it a waste of your precious life energy?

Do you show up when you say you will? Follow through on what you say you’ll do? Work, study, or help out consistently? Maintain connections with people? Handle your money, your time, your health, and your attitude responsibly?

Those behaviours, sometimes considered common sense, are not common practice for everyone. Yet they can be very effective in helping you get the perch that you want, rather than fluttering around aimlessly.

Have you chosen your perch?

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