My friend’s desert tortoise, Tucker, has been in her family for 42 years and is likely close to 100 years old. Watching him move around his domain in the backyard, and hearing stories about him, made me realize there are many life lessons that I have learned from him. Here are a few of them that I think we can all benefit from.
Know when to hide in your shell, and know when to stick your neck out. Tucker the desert tortoise knows that his shell can serve him well when he needs to hide. But, he also knows that there are times when he doesn’t need to hide at all and actually needs to poke his head out. If he wants to eat, sun himself, or meander through his pen, he’s got to stick it out. This is something that we all need to remember: being too protective doesn’t allow us to live fully, just like it doesn’t allow Tucker to. Knowing when to risk something to make our lives better is a valuable lesson that we can learn from him.
There is no need to rush through life. Those who read the classic children’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare know that “slow and steady wins the race.” But in the 21st Century, we increasingly seem to forget this because our modern technology allows us to do things instantly. This has spread over into the rest of our lives, and we are always in a hurry, trying to do more, more quickly. But, by doing this we miss out on so much. We don’t enjoy the journey, we just look to the finish line often missing the more meaningful things in the process.
Notice the details. Because turtles don’t hurry and rush, they observe and take in everything around them and notice the details of their environment. They have to for their survival. They have to make sure there aren’t predators nearby, that there’s a food and water source, and there is shelter if they need it. How much are you missing in your life by not taking the time to notice the things around you?
Take care of yourself. Tucker eats well, he eats plenty of vegetables and plant material and nothing goes to waste, it doesn’t have to be perfect looking, it just has to be tasty. He loves strawberry stems, the stems of celery and all parts of leafy greens. He also has a cozy pen that keeps him warm in the winter and cool in the summer. He knows what he needs to do to be healthy and he never changes his behavior. That’s probably why he’s lived for so long.
Always stay focused on your goal. Like the fabled Tortoise, the tortoise never gives up and truly believes that he can beat the hare and reach his goal. He plans out his course of action and sticks to it no matter how hard it gets.