Certain animals attract us. And the ones that appeal to me and the ones that appeal to you might differ entirely…and the next person might come along with yet another wholly different set of favorite beasts… This is all pretty obvious stuff, of course…but as the holidays and other assorted wellsprings of busy-ness conspire to keep me further from this space than usual, I thought I’d leave you with a nifty animal-related exercise to try that’s designed to tell you some things about yourself. You can think of it as a sort of zoological version of an inkblot test…
And to be fair, and give credit where credit is due, this exercise was related to me by a good friend, and is not my own invention — I can’t tell you who originally cooked it up. But if you’re okay with not knowing its murky origins, here’s the gist of it:
First, without deliberating too much, answer off the top of your head, this question: What’s your favorite animal?
Don’t worry about any “wrong answer vs. right answer” kinds of concerns — there are none — and don’t second-guess yourself. Just note which animal it is that most draws you, intrigues you, delights you. And once you have the right creature in mind…jot down three reasons why this animal so appeals to you. And none of these reasons should be of the “It just looks cool!” variety. Aim for something a bit deeper. Try to capture certain specific qualities of the animal that resonate for you or that describe its impact or presence in your own life.
The rest is easy from here on out:
Next…write down your second-favorite animal, and an accompanying three reasons why that animal takes the Silver Medal in your own personal menagerie. If you can, try not to repeat the reasons that you already gave for your first animal, but if they’re honestly very similar, don’t stress too much about this — record them, and then move onward.
And finally…do the same with your third-favorite animal. Again, you shouldn’t spend too much time doing left-brain analysis on this — you want intuition and instinct rather than deliberate calculation. Just write down the animal that most catches your fancy after the first two that you listed, and add three reasons why that’s so.
That’s the work part of the exercise — and now you’re done with the work!
So…the results! What, exactly, was the point of all this…?
Take a look back at that first animal that you listed… In this exercise, that animal represents what you’re striving to become. It’s the you that you hope to evolve into: that animal’s qualities are the qualities that you’re seeking to build and achieve within yourself. That favorite animal stands for your own personal, self-directed aspirations.
The second animal you chose, the one you like second-best in all the world… That animal represents the kinds of people that you like to surround yourself with — as this exercise would have it, you tend to enjoy being in and among those people who embody the traits that you wrote about liking in this particular animal. This animal signifies “your people.”
And finally, the third animal… This creature symbolizes where you, yourself, are at in your development right now. While you hope to become your most favorite animal in the future, this third-favorite creature is you in the present. This is your here and now, and you exemplify the three characteristics that you found noteworthy and pleasing in this animal.
And it’s as simple as that: the three animals are, in order, who you hope to be, who you like being with, and who you are at this moment in time.
So what do you think? Does it all ring true? Does any of it? I can say that when my friend first sprung this test on me, I found the results to be pretty accurate…and as she pointed out, even if it doesn’t land for you, personally, it makes for a great conversation-starter at parties! Virtually everyone can relate to the feeling of being attracted to certain animals like metal to magnets…and I believe that this kind of “animal magnetism” must certainly mean something, and must say something important about each of us…and this little exercise isn’t a bad starting point for examining what that meaning might be!