Growing up, I remember visiting the tide pools at Pele’s Chair and Baby Makapu`u, oftentimes fascinated by shells that appeared to be moving on the reef. At first I thought it was magical that what appeared to be an inanimate object, was moving on its own accord. However, upon further examination, and my dad pointing out the obvious, these were not moving shells, but in fact hermit crabs residing in the shells. I spent hours observing and picking up the hermit crabs. It fascinated me that hermit crabs took their homes with them wherever they went and at any given shift in the environment, they would retract and go inside their shell. To my surprise on one particular day, I saw a hermit crab attempting to get into another shell that was slightly bigger than its own. The hermit crab appeared tentative at first, but after a while positioned itself to finally leave its old shell to inhabit the new one.
I pondered over what the impetus was, that made the hermit crab decide to leave the comfort of its old home to inhabit a new one. Over time, experience and consulting with thousands of people, there seems to be one constant that holds true – growth and change. Although we become creatures of habit and dislike when change occurs, the desire to learn and discover, tends to be a rather strong impulse that gets the better of us. Similar to the hermit crabs, there are moments when we enjoy being in our common, well-known, behavior patterns, and at other times feel the need to get out there and make a change.
Reflecting on how change impacts us and how daily stressors determine to what degree one enjoys life or silently resents it, can be comparable to a little hermit crab. Stress is ever present in our lives. Think about how a hermit crab inhabits a little shell, only to have to go and search for another bigger one as the current shell becomes to small and cramped. How many times have you found yourself feeling the pressure to grow, take a leap of faith, and search for new possibilities? As uncomfortable as this gnawing feeling is, there’s something deep inside each and every one of us that wants to learn, grow, and evolve beyond our current state of be-ing. Many of us, me included, will oftentimes hold onto our shell of comfort, until life circumstances and other external drivers push us to get out of our shell and embrace a new experience. At which time, we have to abandon the comforts of our warm, protective shell and literally let go of our held habits and behaviors of being. Embracing a new shell provides the opportunity to make new discoveries and establish a new baseline and environment from which to operate.
Why do you ask, do we do this? Call it curiosity or to simply put it, the design of life and living. The moment we choose not to grow and learn, we shrink, and contract. I have had the opportunity to work with a beautiful couple that comes to the islands every year in the winter. The gentleman is in his nineties and both he and his wife inspire me. His goal is to live for as long as possible, not just to survive, but to live well and possess good, vibrant health. They both have an incredible zest and love of life, constantly refining who they are, and choosing to live their life to the fullest. I am truly blessed to be on their path. I feel that as we mature, we do not have to age and get old. We can use the discomfort of change as the impetus to learn new things that can enhance our lives, versus subtracting from it.
Learning to appreciate the unexpected, and recognizing the need to change and make a shift becomes essential in embracing your life. To be in your life’s flow, instead of resisting in times of change and upheaval, will go a long way in helping you deal with stress in a whole different way. Instead of managing your stress, you will learn to use it as a source of fuel. It will change the way you deal with upcoming circumstances that challenge the status quo. Also be cognizant that, “it too shall pass”. This gives reassurance and inner peace, knowing that eventually after a change, things settle down, allowing time to integrate, and eventually embrace the changes.