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