This is the question, but what’s the answer?

If by chance you’re job hunting and lucky enough to get an interview, you’ve probably researched on how best to present yourself. Bosses want to look deeper into your psyche so questions like ‘’what’s your biggest weakness?’’ throws a curve ball when you’re expecting ‘‘what’s your biggest strength?’’ Then there‘s the wacky abstract..’’if you were a colour what would you be and why’’?

Working with clients in therapy, one of my favourite questions is ‘’if you were an animal what would you be and why’?’’  At times I’ll get an odd look (and I’m guessing they’re inwardly saying ’really?… and I’m the one in therapy?’).  Mostly, however, they’ll think for a minute, then the smile starts, their face becomes animated, smiles become wider and eyes dance with imagination. It’s fascinating to watch the shift as they process and ‘sit’ with their chosen animal.

The first time I asked that question the work lasted for three sessions.  The client selected their animal, a specific breed of reptile, (ok  so not exactly an animal but that’s fine), they described a couple of reasons why they had chosen it and merrily left the session with my words following them out that they may like to do some research to read some more.

Back they came the following week energised and animated..’’wow I looked into my animal and you never guess what..it’s this…it does that…I’m this and I do that too!’’  With their research, and further discussion, the client drilled down and discovered that their chosen animals’ behaviour, characteristics and survival strategies was indeed almost a blueprint for how they were in life,  how they behaved and how they had certainly used their resources for surviving recent tough times.  For several weeks after it became the client’s favourite question to ask their friends, and made for some interesting, deep, but fun discussions down their local so I’m told.

Me? Well I did some creative journaling a few months ago and I’m an elephant! The more I researched the more I was amazed with the parallel process: elephants fall into four types, leaders, gentle giants, playful rogues and reliable plodders (there’s definitely a part of me in each of these). Elephants are one of the few animals where leaders are chosen for their problem solving and respect, and where the leaders work to get agreement amongst the herd, so in effect it’s not about the power and brute force like with so many other animals, (when I was a corporate manager I preferred to ‘take’ my team with me rather than adopting the ‘just do it’ mentality we hear about so often). Older elephants mentor the younger ones (I teach, I love training and hopefully inspire people to be who they want to be). Elephants are BIG on the outside but deep on the inside (many people think I’m an extrovert but I’m the biggest introvert and deepest thinker!).  They like cuddling, playing mischievously and are all about family, support, strength and compassion.

The last bit of my journal was how I could be more like my elephant? Well, in general they’re kind of slow movers, in the mindful here and now I guess, and I could definitely do with slowing down a bit, however slow they go though, they get to their destinations just like I will in my good time. My favourite is they flap their ears to cool down, so I’ve decided if I ever get in a tizzy, I’ll find a way to ‘flap my ears’ (metaphorically of course, they’re big but not that big!) to chill my boots a bit!

So, if you’re not already thinking about it, my question to you is…If you were an animal what would you be and why?

PS..and if you are going for a job interview,  apparently a darker shade of charcoal grey is a good answer to the question what colour would you be. Charcoal grey says you’re an efficient and quiet worker, a warm person (because darker colours absorb heat from the sun while lighter colours deflect heat), and grey is a chic, understated colour that can complement other colours, so a good team player!