What Hummingbirds Can Teach Us About Us

—video transcript —

Let’s talk about winter hummingbirds and what they can teach us about ourselves. This is a curious topic, probably not what you would be expecting today to come across your path. But here we go: winter hummingbirds.

I happen to be a major bird nerd. I really enjoy, appreciate, and love birds, and, because I do, I seek out opportunities to watch them and learn about them. Recently, I attended a local talk about winter hummingbirds. And, God bless, my husband came with me. He kinda gets into it too, not as much as me. But he was very good and loving sport to join me for the talk about winter hummingbirds at the store not too far from our house.

Interestingly, I’ve always heard that we shouldn’t keep feeders out after a certain point in the year because the hummingbirds will stick around to feed and not migrate to the warmer climates that they would usually go to in search of the food and nutrition they need to survive. If we keep feeding them here, we can discourage them from following their nature of migration to go where they need to go to sustain themselves and sustain their lives.

The lesson, the key takeaway from this talk that I and my husband attended, was that we can commit to feeding winter hummingbirds. And if we sustain that food source for them, they don’t need to migrate. The climate may be such that and their adaptations may be such that they can stay in a colder climate as long as they have a consistent and reliable food source. (Note: We live in Tennessee. Please connect with a local bird authority in your area to learn what is best for the hummingbirds in your region.)

This was so different than what I expected to learn. There were other points that were made, but in light of you and I being here together today, I wanted to illuminate some thoughts about this.

That is basic biology. For a hummingbird, it needs to sustain itself through proper nutrition in a climate in which it can survive and thrive with the entire point being to ultimately propagate its species. As long as it has food and it can survive and then head back to wherever it came from in order to mate and reproduce its offspring, it doesn’t care. It’s being efficient.

My point among a few that I wanna make today is we’re biological creatures! Look at us; we’re wired for efficiency. I really try to veer away from the use of the word lazy in relation to anything related to brain function and how our nervous system works. Because when you get into the biology of any living creature, efficiency is a core motivator. We are wired to not expend unnecessary energy, just like a winter hummingbird that may stick around in a certain area because it has plenty of food. It can survive and do what it needs to do to mate and create the next generation of hummingbirds.

We’re biological. We fundamentally want to be and work efficiently.

So my first point, don’t ever talk about your brain being lazy or you being lazy. I want you to be intelligent about just the biological function that’s core to who you as a living biological creature. So there’s no harm, no foul in the fact that you may default to more efficient operations as a being.

I often talk about the motivational triad. We’re wired to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and be efficient. And the intention behind all of that is our biology to keep us alive and keep us perpetuating the species—to keep going.

Here’s the deal. We aren’t hummingbirds, and we aren’t like any of the other creatures. We evolved uniquely. And we have unique brains that do uniquely human things. So we don’t have to simply operate based on the fundamental wiring that came in our packaging, so to speak.

Where a hummingbird may opt to stay because there’s plenty of food and it certainly doesn’t need to expend the energy to migrate all the way to the sunnier climates; it can just stay in the area and get its nourishment in order to move forward, we can wake up. We don’t have to stay in the job that pays just good enough. We don’t have to stay in the relationship that offers the companionship, but not the real connection that we deeply desire. We can intervene and make our own choices; in certain circumstances we can actually wake up and assess. Maybe we don’t need to make a change in that moment because our needs are being met and we don’t need to expend the energy on this thing because we need that energy to be diverted to something else.

When I work with folks and, and what I teach, I always invite you to start with the most simple solution and to begin with your biology.

I am a spiritual person and I trust that there’s more to our stories than just our biology. I’ve lived a life that’s dotted with divine intervention. However, it has been incredibly beneficial for me to acknowledge the role of biology and how I, as a human being, operate and how everyone, all the people, operate based on biology.

So if I’m working with you or I’m working on myself and I’m having an off day, did I drink enough water that day? How’s my nutrition? What am I eating? Am I getting proper rest? Have I been out in nature? Have I gotten a fair dose of nature’s vitamin D that is so essential to brain function? I actually want us to look at those things first before we take any deeper dives about mindset. Let alone—goodness gracious—getting into anything related to morality assessments that can be such wasted effort when really all we needed was a good drink of water and to take a walk.

So how’s your biology? Where are you being efficient in a way that serves you well? And where can you wake up and intentionally, consciously override your natural inclination to be efficient, to be expedient and not exert certain forms or kinds of energy in the moment?

Certainly another thing I teach is decluttering your life. Decluttering your digital life so you’re not burdened by all your technology and digital, social, mobile tools. Decluttering your physical space so you’re not burdened with trying to search for things that you need just to function throughout your every day. Decluttering your body in terms of your food intake and nutrition and your frustrations with weight such that you lose 30 minutes a day just trying to find something in your closet that fits. Decluttering your relationships, knowing who’s bringing you down and who, what needs to come and go in terms of your connections with people in your life. Decluttering your professional life. Are you in a place that is really bringing you down and kind of keeping you in a spin cycle? So I focus on those things because when you clear the blocks, it’s amazing how free your path can become to then properly exert energy that used to get wasted on all the clutter to go for what sparks you.

We can create. We can design lives that spark us, that enliven us. We don’t have to stay on script. We don’t have to stay on routine. We are not migratory; we’re not running on this internal biology that tells us where to fly and when to fly. We can make those choices as part of the beauty and uniqueness of our human biological nature.

And if we can do everything in our power and our intelligence to free up our biology to support what we deeply desire we’re on a great path for success and peacefulness and productivity and true connection, the kind of connection that we choose.

So… Thanks to the winter hummingbirds for sparking some thoughts that I wanted to share with you as we are all on a journey to design those lives that spark us!

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