Why Climb When You Can DANCE??

Author Steven Pressfield changed the world for me with one distinction in his book, The War of Art.
Here’s that distinction: there are two ways that animals interact in the world. They are either a part of a hierarchy–like a pecking order for birds or the top-dog/underdog hierarchy of canines–or they claim a territory, like birds of prey or bears. Although it’s true that many animals use both behaviors, depending on whether they’re with their group or hunting alone, I was struck by Steven’s point that we can learn much about our own behavior by exploring the distinction between these two.
In the hierarchy of a pecking order, each creature is always vying with the others to climb to the top. You can imagine there’s no rest in a social order like that. Humans call it “keeping up with the Jones.”
On the other hand, when animals claim a territory, they mark it with their scent or their sound. They roam peacefully in their space. Although they will guard what’s theirs as necessary, they make no comparison with others or attack without provocation, simply to get the upper hand. Humans call that “claiming your space.”
Although I might be making a biological stretch here, what struck me about these two types of social interaction are the differences they point to in human behavior.
While in a hierarchy, you’re comparing yourself to everyone else in order to rank yourself. Think about how many of us in business are caught up in comparing ourselves with others to evaluate our own sense of value in the marketplace. The challenge we face is that we’re comparing apples to oranges every time, and we usually come up short in the comparison. So we get stuck in trying to be something we’re not. As a result, we never “measure up.” Reading this book, I could see how often I’ve done exactly that and I realized how much it holds me back when I do it.
On the other hand, when you claim your territory, you’re simply claiming what’s yours: who you are, what you know, what gifts you bring because of your unique experiences. There’s a singular lack of comparison that completely aligns with my experience of Powerful Presence. If you think about a bear or a lion in their own territory, there’s a calmness and peace with which they go about their day, even when they’re hunting. There’s a marked absence of the behavior you see when they’re aiming for the top of the ladder or protecting their place at the top.
This reminds me of the idea that each of us has our own unique “territory” since there is no one exactly like us on the planet. That begs the question, “What would happen if we took the time to explore our own territory and use that to showcase our gifts, instead of comparing ourselves to others and using another’s territory as a measurement of our own?”
Dancing is my territory–it brings me peace. Sharing my dance strategies with you is my territory as well, and you can use them to enhance the experience of claiming the territory that’s uniquely yours.
Which would you rather do this week: climb or Dance?

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