Two weeks ago, Jenna and I finished Planet Earth II.
Have you seen it?
(Incredible cinematography, storytelling, music, and production—highly recommend.)
As we moved through the series, I couldn’t help but be struck by one thing: The incredible challenges animals endure to survive.
Constantly on the move for food, never certain of their next meal. Constantly under threat—of lost territory, lost mates, or death. Constantly trying and failing in their battle for food, water and shelter. Constantly pushed to the limits of their capabilities.
And this is true for all animals, from wildebeest to peregrine falcons.
I thought to myself: This is what it is to be an animal living on planet earth. It’s an incredible journey of survival that takes everything you’ve got.
I was overcome with compassion for the animals we watched—the newly hatched sea iguanas running past hordes of snakes, the sea turtles struggling to find the sea, the mama snow leopard fighting to protect her cub from a deadly attack by a male snow leopard.
Then I couldn’t help but wonder: What about us humans? We’re animals, too. Is this struggle to survive a fundamental truth of nature?
As soon as I asked the question, I intuitively knew the answer is yes.
Clearly, we’ve innovated our way out of struggling for food, water and shelter. But if you dig deep enough into anyone’s life, they’re in a struggle of life and death. Not a struggle of physical survival, but of psychological—a struggle to not just stay alive, but to live an incredible life. To be fully alive.
For our ancestors, it was enough to survive. But now the bar has been risen. Our basic needs are easily met by society, and we’ve graduated into a different, but just as difficult challenge: The challenge of creating meaningful, happy, incredible lives.
But most people don’t accept the challenge. Driven by their brain’s drive to keep them safe, they choose unhappiness over uncertainty. The only problem is, a life of survival isn’t a life at all. That’s an existence.
If you’ve lived long enough, you know that this being human stuff takes everything you’ve got.
We’re all constantly pushed to the limits of our capabilities, just like the sea turtles, wildebeest, and falcons.
But this need not be demotivating or sad.
I find comfort in it. In knowing that I’m not alone. In knowing that every other species that crawls, flies, swims, and walks on this earth is on a constant journey to adapt and evolve to the challenges that face them.
And without conflict, there’s no journey worth having.
(In fact, I think we can sometimes be tricked into thinking the challenges are things to be conquered before we start living. That one day we’ll have conquered all the challenges we need to conquer, and when we do, then we can start living. But really the challenges are the stuff of life.)
What about you?
What do you believe it takes to create a remarkable life?
Are you fighting to be fully alive, or are you choosing unhappiness over uncertainty?