The whip-poor-will awakens at dusk. This bird’s night song is a bringer of misfortune. It sings the same song over and over again on repeat. Like a monkey mind that cannot release the root cause of its fear, the whip-poor-will sings the same tune over and over–repeating the same nightmare night after night.
A New England legend says the whip-poor-will can sense a soul departing and has the ability to capture it as it flees. This story likely has its origins in an earlier Native American folk belief that the singing of the birds is a death omen. The Cherokee named the bird waguli.
This medium-sized bird is a member of the nightjar family. It is seldom seen–as it is very well camouflaged; coloured in the browns, blacks and greys that keep it out of sight–but not out of mind. During the breeding season, it can be heard calling its name over and over, seemingly endlessly, at dusk and dawn. If you were to glance this animal on top a tree, you wouldn’t even notice it–but it is there, stealing precious hours of sleep and your mental peace.
Whip-poor-wills perch on themselves branches or sit on the ground where they fly up to catch beetles, mosquitoes, gnats, and a variety of moths. The birds are most active on moonlit nights when moths and other nocturnal insects are backlit against the bright night sky.
As I did my research, I realised that the whippoorwills’ song is part of its courting ritual. It involves strutting, throat-puffing, and a variety of noises designed to convince the silent female that he is the best mate among a forest swarming with calling males. So tell me, how are you convincing others that you are ‘the best mate’ in a forest swarming with voices that are competing for attention? Are you creating noise or music?
I tell this story to ask illustrate a simple point. When problems occur and reoccur in your life, it is because of the pattern that plays out in your mind? Are you habitually attracted to it or attracting it into your life? Are people fed up of what comes out of your mouth or do they look forward to hearing the sound of your voice?
The message of the whip-poor-will is clear: what are the habits and patterns in your mind that are wrecking havoc in your life? Instead of being stuck in a negative spiral that leads nowhere, we must allow ourselves to replace these negative habits with positive and productive habits.
When it comes to work and business, I see so many people caught up in repetitive cycles of behaviour. I hear the same excuses, the same whining and the same lousy habits repeat themselves over and over–among both my employees as well as business owners whom I have met. The key is to replace this negative patterning with a positive pattern that leads to long-awaited success.
When we awaken at dawn, the whip-poor-will’s song is silent. We must remember that no matter what anxiety and fears take hold at night; the sun will rise again.
The Habits of Highly Effective People
When Stephen Covey first released The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the book became an instant bestseller because it made people realise that much like the whip-poor-will, their lives were full of recurring patterns that were rooted in a negative downward spiral. The solutions Covey suggests are simple.
But it is not enough to just read the book. It is vital that we implement these habits in our daily lives. Until we utilise and master the habits themselves, it is merely knowledge that we digest and then talk about over a coffee or cocktail to make ourselves look smart and learned. Without the power of action, words remain thoughts that hold a piece of real estate in our minds, but not in our lives.
Like the whip-poor-will, I can rattle off these seven habits–but until you actually implement them, my voice will only be a source of irritation for you. You will think I am a nag and ignore my voice completely–even if it is for your own good. In my experience, people will not change till they are forced or pushed to change. Whether it’s their voice that’s complaining or my voice that’s trying to instil some much-needed discipline–it is all just noise till we understand it’s purpose and the role that these recurring patterns play in our lives.
The most successful people I know are disciplined, dedicated and committed. They take full ownership for their failures and don’t try and push the burden on other people. We needn’t take on the madness of others. We need only to sing a song that inspires us into action. But if we don’t heed the call to act, the onus for our shortcomings is on us and us alone.
Spiral upwards, not downwards. Ascend and don’t descend. And like the eagle, keep doing that for the rest of your life.