Managing Time: Go Against The Procession

by Elaine Cercado

The caterpillar has the instinct to follow in lock step the caterpillar in front of it.  French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre in his “The Processionary Caterpillar” experiment showed that this instinct actually led to the caterpillar’s death.

“The Processionary Caterpillar” experiment: Fabre took a flowerpot & placed a number of caterpillars in single file around the pot’s rim’s circumference. Each caterpillar’s head touched the caterpillar in front of it. Fabre then placed caterpillar’s favorite food in the middle of the circle created by the procession around the rim of the flowerpot. Each caterpillar followed the one ahead thinking that it was heading for food.  Round and round for 7 days! After a week of mindless activity, the caterpillars started to drop dead because of exhaustion and starvation. All they had to do to avoid death was to stop the senseless circling and head directly to the food, 6 inches away from the ever-circling crawlers. However, the processionary caterpillars were locked into this lifestyle and mindless behavior. (Source) 

People are different from caterpillars as we have the ability to change our direction in life. Unlike the caterpillars, we can choose to stop going “round and round for 7 days” and go for the “food”.

Yet in many ways, people are similar to the processionary caterpillars.  We often confuse moving with meaning, and activity with productivity and achievement.  That is why we sometimes end up unhealthy, exhausted, unbalanced and starved in life, literally and figuratively.

Go against the procession. Go for the food.  To be able to manage our precious, limited time well, we need to get out of the “procession” (the things we do that don’t really matter or add value to our mission in life) at some point in life, and we need to go directly to the “food” (the important things or that matter most).  The way to do that is to know what, where, when and how to go for the food.

For me, food here represents not just my physical needs to survive.  For me, food actually represents my purpose and mission in life. The “mindless” procession is one way to live but I’d die before I even reach the food. Hence, I’d rather simplify, get out of the “processionary” kind of lifestyle and use my time on the things that add value to my mission in life.

It’s not easy especially if all others are lined up in a procession, which could be a stressful busy work life or a certain lifestyle. But once a person is clear about his/her mission in life, I’m very sure priorities would be driven; passion would be focused; the right behavior and the discipline to do the important things would follow; and the gift and power of time would be well spent!

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