What personal growth lessons can you learn from foxes?

Have you ever had the panicked feeling that comes with believing that you’re not keeping up? The desperate feeling that comes with trying to keep your head above water. The exhausted feeling that comes with trying to convince yourself that it’s all enough.

For me, I’ve been trying so hard to change: to become more productive, more balanced, more chill in the midst of it all – Mostly, it’s not working.

But here’s a story about a fox.

Or rather, it’s a story about a scientist back in the 1950s that wanted to study the domestication of the red fox.

I won’t bore you with too many details but the initial purpose of the study was to see if it was possible to create an entire generation of tame foxes, a creature historically known for its aggressive nature. In order to do this, the scientist took a group of the species and isolated them in a controlled environment. The group was hand-fed by humans, protected from predators, and given everything they needed to survive. Sure enough, over decades, scientists were able to create an entire breed of domesticated foxes.

But here’s where things get really interesting…

Not only was this community of wild animals calmer and friendlier, but the scientist started to notice physical changes as well. As new generations were being born, they were doing so with floppier ears, or curlier tails, or different colours of fur. Even their skeletal structures were starting to alter in shape.

The species as a whole was simply…changing.

Long story short, this breed of fox has lived for years in a wild state of ‘fight or flight’ and hardly changed at all. Then, all of a sudden, a group of the same species is pulled out of that state and within a matter of generations, change begins to occur.

Now, please don’t quote me on the details of all this. I’ve looked up the study and the fine print alone had me begging for mercy. But here’s what I take away from this observation…

When we are given the space to breathe, to rest, to settle…nature has the space to do its best work.

To create, to evolve, to change.

The species didn’t change when they were consumed with trying to survive. They started to change when they were given space to simply ‘be’.

So often, as humans, we are pushing, aiming, pursuing. We are driven by determination, by will power, by an endless desire to improve. And it often makes me wonder if we forget that we’re not actually in this alone. It isn’t us against the world, but rather, us in creation WITH the world.

I’m willing to guess that this scientist didn’t set out to demonstrate that art is created in the calm or that change happens in the silence or that beauty is made in the surrender.

But what if the real magic doesn’t lie in the constant need to do it all on our own? What if true change isn’t made in the hustle of life? What if the person we’re trying to be can’t be found by wearing ‘busy’ around like a badge of honour?

What if what we really need is margin, and stillness and surrender?

What if we just need to be a bit more like a fox?

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Written by Patra Kigula

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