Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Snakes are one of the most maligned creatures going around.

From the giant anaconda of the Amazon, to the rattlesnakes of the Americas, the cobras of Asia and Africa and the taipan of Australia, there are many well-known species and they have managed to inhabit almost the entire planet.

Since the Garden of Eden, they’ve been feared, but there are a few principles that we can learn from these unique creatures.

What can we learn from snakes?

Don’t be defined by your limitations.  Snakes don’t have legs.  I know, it’s obvious, but it teaches us something important.  Despite their obvious limitations, they are still able to negotiate a wide variety of habitats from desert dunes to trees to the ocean.  They don’t just eat vegetation they are predators, outwitting and outmaneuvering their prey and becoming one of the most iconic creatures of the animal kingdom.  Whether they are venomous or use constriction, they take advantage of their strengths to become successful.

What about you?  Do you define yourself by your limitations or by your strengths?  Do you have a big pile of excuses that you use regularly to justify your lack of success or do you focus on what makes you unique and have confidence in the gifts and skills that God has given you?

Just because you can attack, doesn’t mean that you should.  Snakes are feared by most people and rightly so as many of them are venomous enough to kill a grown man.  However, despite their reputation, most snakes aren’t aggressive towards human and will only bite as a last resort.  They understand that just because they have the capacity to cause damage it doesn’t mean that they have to.

We can get this wrong so many times.  Instead of using aggression as a last resort, we often go straight for the jugular.  The other party may be wrong, insensitive, rude, offensive, derogatory, mean-spirited and completely deserve to be given both barrels verbally.  But you’re not in control of their actions, only yours. 

During moments of conflict, instead of lashing out, hurting yourself and others in the process, try to find more effective resolution strategies.  Such maturity and self-control will assist you greatly in building stronger relationships.

Make a decision and act on it.  One of the unique aspects of snakes is their forked tongues.  They use their tongue to smell and detect what’s going on around them.  They have very poor eye-sight, so they rely on this sense to find their prey.  Each time they stick their tongue out one of the forks on the tongue will detect a stronger smell than the other.  They then move towards the stronger side.  After moving a short distance, they test the air again to ensure that they are moving in the right direction.  This process is repeated until they find their next meal.

With our goals, we need to constantly check to make sure that we are on track.  Before you make a decision ask yourself, is this going to take me closer or further away from my aims?  Once you’ve made that decision, take action, ensuring that you are building momentum and moving towards your target.

Snakes are fascinating creatures and by ensuring that you’re not defining yourself by your limitations, that you restrain yourself from attacking others and that you make decisions that will take you closer to your goals, we can learn a lot from them.

Are there any other principles that you have learned from snakes?

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