I consider myself to be a fairly switched on person. So it was with surprise that during an initial discussion with Love Coach Julia Keller that she pointed out something that should’ve been very obvious to me.
We were discussing what I wanted in life, whether my aim was to be married and have kids etc. I said no to both. If I do happen to meet “the one” then that’s enough for me. I don’t need the big dress and an expensive day if I have someone by my side who is committed and trusting, that’s enough. On the child front, it’s just never been a great urge. I am lucky to have loads of nieces and nephews and friends who provide plenty of “kid” time for me to have my fix. I’m not shutting the door completely on the idea, because I’ve often thought about the option of adopting. But as a 40-year-old single woman I’m not at all bothered about the “tick tock” of my biological clock nor am I looking at the best options for freezing eggs.
However, a year ago I seemed to have some maternal instincts kick in. I decided that I needed to take care of something other than myself. And after a brief stint pet-sitting a friend’s pet hamster, I decided the time had come to get my own pet.
So I did some research and decided upon an African pygmy hedgehog. His name is Roscoe, and he’s cute as a button. (Yes – I set up an Instagram page for him!)
But while relaying this story, Julia stopped me in my tracks. “Wait. You got a hedgehog? A pet with spikes and that balls up. Do you know that pets are an extension of their owners?”
I showed her a picture and she agreed he was cute – but the question remained – “why a hedgehog?”
To be honest – I’d never really thought about the comparison. But the more I tried to explain it the more I could see how both myself and my lovely little Roscoe can be misunderstood. Roscoe isn’t all spikes. He’s actually really soft underneath, and, yes, when strangers try to touch him he gets huffy and balls up to protect himself but when you get to know him he’s warm, cuddly, loyal and friendly, probably a bit like his owner (insert penny dropping here!)
I then started thinking about the hedgehog affect, a concept I’d read about in a book about leadership by Jim Collins called Good to Great.
This article by James Manktelow explains the hedgehog concept really simply – it’s based on a Greek parable about the fox and the hedgehog. In the parable, the fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spikes. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.
Jim Collins takes this concept a step further in his book where he explains how companies are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing, and do it well. Step one of this is to learn about what you are truly passionate about.
My first step begins this week when I undertake my first goal setting session with Julia. She’s asked me to provide a “before” photograph so I can see in three months time how far I’ve come.
I thought the most timely start of the journey was to acknowledge, understand and embrace the hedgehog affect. So here I am!
PS: We’re actually not that prickly …..