Can You See Your Lion?

Recently I read that antelopes in captivity are not only healthier, but more reproductive when they can see and smell lions, their primary predator. I found such an observation fascinating. Does that mean a bit of stress makes an antelope’s life better?

Which of course led me to consider what a completely stress-free life would look like. Heaven? Or . . . boring? Evidently the antelopes are in the second camp. So boring, in fact, they find little reason to live a productive life without a reminder of some of life’s challenges.

As an author, I took some odd comfort in that. What writer, at any stage in their career, lives without stress? Maybe stress, at least in a manageable dose, isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Let’s face it, if getting published—or staying published—was stress-free then everyone would be doing it. But it’s neither easy nor stress-free. While the self-esteem movement wants everyone to be a winner (and undoubtedly there is something good about reminding us of our value) the bottom line is all of us do lose at one time or another. What accomplishment can we celebrate if every time we set out to do something we succeeded? Either our bar is too low or we’re fooling ourselves, because grown ups face disappointment all the time. In fact, overcoming stress and the accompanying feeling of failure make our successes all the sweeter.

All of this has me considering stress in a new light. I’m not saying all stress is good, or too much stress is good. Maybe there’s a difference between good stress and bad stress, although to an antelope I can’t figure out what’s good about having a lion in the neighborhood. Maybe if we don’t have some lions to look at in our distance—a reminder of the challenges that are out there—we might not have a reason to grow and improve. Maybe without those lions looming we might not even want to get up in the morning.

So next time you’re rushing to meet a deadline, or you receive a rejection, a disappointing contest result or a bad review, remind yourself without these lions in your life, living would be too dull to matter. At least that’s what the antelopes think.

What about you? Is there a fine line between good stress and bad? At what point do the lions in your life make you want to try harder, grow and improve before feeling there are too many lions in your life?

Note: Lion Photo compliments of Amanda Neilson, Neilson House Photography

This entry was posted in Encouragement, Writer's Life, Writing and tagged , , , by Maureen Lang. Bookmark the permalink.

About Maureen Lang

Author of a dozen novels, Maureen Lang has won the Selah Award, a Holt Medallion, FHL's Reader's Choice Award, and been a finalist in such contests as the Christy, the Rita, the Carol, Book Buyer's Best, and others. Before publication she was the recipient of a Golden Heart and a Genesis (then called the Noble Theme). She resides with her husband and kids in the Chicago area. Titles by Maureen Lang All In Good Time Bees In The Butterfly Garden Springtime Of The Spirit Whisper On The Wind Look To The East My Sister Dilly On Sparrow Hill The Oak Leaves Remember Me Pieces Of Silver

39 thoughts on “Can You See Your Lion?

  1. So very true, Maureen. It’s good to be reminded that we all experience stress. I look at it as part of the job, and every job involves tension. Publishing is filled with challenges that we need to accept so we can continue to grow as authors. As you so eloquently said, the stress we experience will inspire us to strive for improvement. And that’s a good thing!

    • So true that every job brings stress of its own, Megan! Even ones we love. Isn’t it funny that even the best things in our life aren’t perfect?

  2. Great reminder that we need some stress to keep life from being boring, Maureen. I liked the question you posed, “What accomplishment can we celebrate if every time we set out to do something we succeeded?” That’s so true. What makes a milestone event so spectacular is that we’ve endured hard work, stress, disappointment, etc. en route to the long-awaited goal, making it that much more meaningful when we achieve it because of what we overcame.

  3. I think a little stress is good in the seeking publication business. When I got a rejection or less than favorable critique of my work– it helped me grow as a writer. For the nursing analogy– lifting weights, placing stress on bones… keeps them strong, too! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  4. “At what point do the lions in your life make you want to try harder, grow and improve before feeling there are too many lions in your life?”
    For me, it all boils down to the number of lions.
    If I’m the antelope, when I look out, do I see one, maybe two lions prowling around? Three?
    OK–I’m a tense antelope. I’m scoping my escape routes–but at least I have a 3 in one chance of escape. I can manage my lions.
    But if look up and am surrounded by lions … then there are most definitely too many lions in my life.
    And you know what? Sometimes, silly antelope that I am, I’ve invited that lions over for lunch, forgetting that lions are carnivores.
    I like a challenge: accepting a new writing assignment or agreeing to edit another writer’s book proposal. Each thing I say yes too adds some stress to my life–both good and bad. I’ve learned it’s best to stop and take a head count of how many lions I’ve got prowling around before I expand the pride.

    • I hate it when I invite the lions over for lunch!!! 🙂

      I do think the amount of stress is an important factor to consider. Stress is stress whether it’s from positive things or negative, and too much of it for any reason is not good for us. Still motivating, but not always good.

    • 🙂 Absolutely, we have to remember the lions are carnivores! But if we use them to inspire us to greater things, we’re the king of the jungle instead of them. Thanks for your thoughts, Beth!

  5. I have an amazing capacity to ignore things that trouble/stress me. My favorite way to do that is to go to sleep and not think about it – save it for later. Just call me Scarlet 🙂 That works…to a point. After that (i.e. as the deadline looms closer and closer) I don’t sleep anymore until I can meet my deadline or complete whatever it is that I need to work on. I am a complex creature though, because I really love to be ahead of schedule with time to spare. I do find a little stress to be a great motivator. For example, I am in the early stages of establishing a non-profit charitable agency and the whole process is foreign to me. Definitely out of my comfort zone so I am motivated to read, learn, research, etc. It helps that I’m excited about what I’m doing, but it also helps to acknowledge the consequences of doing it wrong or missing a deadline! Great post Maureen, thank you. I’m printing it out and putting it on my wall as a reminder. Have a great day.

    • I do the same go-to-bed-and-sleep-through-it thing! Somehow everything is easier to face in the light of a new day, when we have the energy to tap into our excitement (provided the task is something we want to do) or depend on pure stamina on something that just needs to be tackled. I wish all the best with your non-profit mission!

      • Thank you Maureen. It’s very exciting, and I’d love it one day if my writing career could help support some of its mission projects. We’ll see…

  6. Oh boy, have I thought about this. Especially when you say “heaven?….or boring?”

    A healthy dose of stress keeps life exciting. Keeps us on our toes.

    • Yeah, I’m pretty convinced God created us to work – even in heaven. Didn’t he spend the bulk of creation time working? I think we’re being groomed here for whatever we’ll be blessed to be doing up there… all I know is we’ll have job security up there and even more passion for what we do.

  7. Just like a bit of nervousness makes a speaker shine, I do believe a “good” level of stress is beneficial to a writer. It motivates us onward and upward. Guess I’m a bit of an antalope myself.

    • I’ll have to remember that a little nervousness is good for a speaker – I usually feel a bit sick to my stomach! Which is why I so rarely speak in front of more than a couple dozen people, if I can help it. 🙂

  8. For me, some stress can be most motivational and even inspirational, while other stress can be paralyzing. I’m not sure if it is the level or type of stress that is different, or merely how I choose to react to it.

    • I know what you mean, Peter, about how we react to stress. It’s the same way for me. On some occasions I seem to handle it far better than on others, at least internally. Sometimes for me it’s being absolutely convinced I’m doing what God wants me to be doing, even if it’s difficult, so I can do what I’m supposed to do. But it’s not easy going into it, and I’m always thrilled when I’ve survived.

  9. Hello Maureen. I think I read somewhere that we humans need stress, too, that stress is actually good for us. That makes sense, too. I know today I am doing my first interview of a fellow artist–she’s an actor and a civility advocate, actually–and my stress is to make sure I know how to set up and run the equipment. First I had to compose what I hope are good questions. After the interview I have to figure out my editing software and, finally, I’ll be posting the interview to my blog. It’s a big day, somewhat stressful, but if I didn’t have the stress I’d never get to the outcome. In this way stress is good as it makes us achieve more and better outcomes. And a person’s “reach must exceed his [her] grasp or”…

    • Sounds like you’re raising the bar, Elaine, and that’s great. 🙂 There are certainly a lot of things to consider when you’re in charge of everything – but from your post alone it sounds as if you know exactly what you’re doing. I’m already smiling to imagine your sense of accomplishment once the interview is posted. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic! Can you email me when it posts? At:
      I’ll look forward to seeing it!

  10. Thought-provoking post. Boring is a monochromatic world. Stress, excitement, challenges add the color that energizes me. Too much stress, like a clashing array of wild colors, overwhelms.

  11. I love this analogy. I never knew that about Lions/Antelope, but how true it is for me. If I have all the time in the world, I tend to fritter and squander that time. But if I’m pressed, even just a little bit, I get focused and get to work.

  12. It makes sense. J.K. Rowling was a single mom, low income living with family when she was published. Many other authors mention how the debtors were at their door. Perhaps when we need it the most we work the hardest.

  13. Stress. Keeps us on our toes but too much makes us fat and age faster. All comes down to finding the right balance, or dealing with it better perhaps.

    Great post.

  14. There’s a famous researcher named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (whenever I try to google him I type in the words “chicks send me high” because that’s how you pronouce his last name). In his study, people were randomly beeped. They had to write down what they were doing and how happy they were. Surprisingly people were not happiest during leisure activities.They were happiest when they were in a state Csikszentmihalyi nicknamed “flow.” It’s the time when Completely involved, focused, concentrating – with this either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training
    Sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
    Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going
    Knowing the activity is doable – that the skills are adequate, and neither anxious or bored
    Sense of serenity – no worries about self, feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego – afterwards feeling of transcending ego in ways not thought possible
    Timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing
    Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward

  15. Sorry, I’m on a hotel computer and couldn’t see the words before I pasted the criteria.
    Summarize it to say people were happiest when they were challenged, but not overwhelmed. They entered a euphoric state when they lost sense of time and felt a sense of achievement. This research exemplifies exactly what you are saying Maureen. We need challenge. It’s much better than boredom.

  16. Great post, Maureen (I remember sitting next to you at a breakfast at last year’s ACFW). I think this stress, in Biblical terms, is one of the “weaknesses” Paul talks about in 2 Cor 12. You know that passage where he’s pleading with the Lord for this “thorn in the flesh” to leave him? And then God tells him, “My grace is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul goes on to talk about how he now views his weaknesses in a totally different light…as the very thing that draws him to Christ, and keeps him near. And the result is, he gets to experience the power of God so much more.

    That’s how it is for me. I seem prone to fret. Anything good happens, I rejoice for a little while, and then…what if this good thing doesn’t keep happening? What if something comes and takes it away. What if… And then I run to God.

    The RT Review for my most recent book just came out. 4.5 Stars/Top Pick. But you should have seen what I was like when I sent that in to my editor a year ago. She’s going to hate it. It’s too different from my other books. It’s not what they’re expecting. Here I am about to finish my 6th book with them. Am I full of confidence and strength? Not even close.

    For me, confidence and strength come from one source, in fairly small doses, like manna. The upside is, Jesus is always there, ready to impart fresh grace. The downside…I feel so pathetic that I can’t keep this manna in my jar for longer than a day.

  17. I enjoyed this post, Maureen, and it’s very timely for me. I love the lion image in your picture and your post.

    But perhaps there are two kinds of lions: the ones who roam around, seeking whom they can devour…

    And the Lion of Judah. 🙂

    Right now, I have a pack of the former kind around, messing with my confidence and my stress level. But when I look above those scrawny, hungry lions, I know the Lion of Judah sits on the highest cliff, and I know He’ll jump down to run off those stragglers at a moment’s notice. So even the most gangly antelope need not fear…at least this is what I tell myself. Does it always chase the fear away? Sadly, no. But I’m working on it!

    God bless you today.

  18. I really enjoyed your analogy with the lion and the antelope. And you’re right – if writing and getting published were stress-free and so easy, everyone would be doing it! No matter whether we have an agent or are self-publishing, getting people to read our books so that we can share what we’ve written is a stressful endeavor and not for the weak of heart. Great post!

  19. Fascinating facts! Never knew that about antelopes…And yes, a certain amount of stress can be good. It’s all a matter of having the right attitude when dealing with it! Reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” We may not be able to control the circumstances, but we CAN choose our attitude about the circumstance. Thanks for the post. God bless!

  20. Wow, Maureen! Your opening analogy is amazing. The lions tend to keep us sharp, indeed. It’s amazing how many times I’ve asked God to remove the lion, when God knows he’s there for a specific reason. Great post!

  21. Well said. At a recent Poisoned Pen Conference in Phoenix, AZ, I came across a wonderful picture of a lion, that I bought to put near my writing area. Your thoughts have put into words the meaning of this picture. Susan Malling had taken it in Kenya. The lion is looking up, a rare photo. Susan @Point To Shoot to see it. Or maybe googling her with her name will bring it up. Is it okay to print your musings to put next to my lion? Thank you very much.

  22. I work in a very stress filled environment, IT and Computer services. Everything is always broken or being upgraded and life at work is in a constant state of flux and disrepair. When I write for an hour a day in the morning or on my lunch break it is the one thing that pulls me away from the craziness. So maybe my Lion is my day job. I have never had a chance to write without one but I have a feeling I would much rather have deadlines looming and interviews and blogs to stress me out than servers that are down and 300 people stressing me to get it back up and working. 🙂

    I always push forward with what ever project I am working on because it’s my daily Zen. Working this way I have been able to complete a script and two non fiction books along with numerous short stories. Now the tricky part of finding sometime in the fray to get an agent and get them published.

  23. I left NY for Cape Cod so that I could have a different type of stress. As a full-time writer, it is easier to survive here. I have a great place to live with a yard. I’m building a new support system, and retaining my old friends, who come visit. I can structure my day. I’m not fighting with scumbag landlords.

    I like deadlines, because that helps me focus my day. I also like large swaths of unstructured time, because I”m more productive that way than micro-managing every 15 minute block of time, and I don’t use to-do lists.

    However, if I just sit around and do nothing all day, I can’t earn a living. I’m learning how to have deadlines, commitments, responsibilities without the negative stresses that accompanied much of my NY life. I’m trying to avoid procrastination,which creates negative stress. Get it done on time, and go play.

    The stress i have now is what I put on myself to write the best work I can, so that it will sell well and I CAN live where I want and do what I want. It’s a completely different type of stress than I had before, and much more possible. I don’t need stress — but I do need goals.

  24. I gave up living with stress a long time ago and instead live with the tension that a full life brings and just do the next thing right in front of me, turning over the rest to God. Stress was grinding me down but when I was able to let go of the outcome and just be of service all of it got easier. I’m no longer trying to balance and instead I’m just following in the direction of the green lights.

  25. “A fine line between good stress and bad” or “a fine LION…” 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t resist. Probably should have. Stress can be good in the way fear can be good. Fear sharpens the senses, gets the adrenaline flowing, and in life-death situations can make the difference. Stress can likewise serve to sharpen our wits, force us to be creative, and work within situations we wouldn’t otherwise to our benefit.

  26. Funny enough plants often bloom and fruit much more after a heavy pruning. When the plant is cut up enough it feels as if it’s life is in danger and starts to reproduce (flowers and fruits) to preserve the species. I guess it’s the same for antelopes.

    In my writing if I’m busy and stressed and know I don’t have as much time to write I usually stay focused much better and end up getting more done.

  27. If it were easy it wouldn’t be fun! Okay, well it doesn’t have to be _that_ hard either. Great post!

  28. I don’t really have much to add to this conversation other than it’s very timely for me. And it’s that age-old flawed thinking that if only we had a little downtime, a little peace and quiet, a little pause in the busy times– then we’d really be able to write/edit our little hearts out. Right? Not so much.

    A good reminder, Maureen, and well-timed for me (one who confesses to buying into that myth above).
    Thank you.

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