Want to live a better life, starting right now? Think like a wolf.
I’m a nature nerd to the core, so I’ve watched countless wildlife documentaries and fallen in love with many different species over the years. Wolves are well toward the top of my list of favorites, though. It’s not just about the way a wolf’s howl makes you feel small and still in the most beautiful, humbling way.
Wolves actually have a lot about life all figured out and can teach us some pretty valuable things. The following are just a few universal life lessons we could all learn from watching wolves and incorporating what we see into our own lives and value systems.
1. When you’re adaptable, you come out on top.
Much like humans, wolves can live and survive in a wide variety of different environments, including some of the harshest and least forgiving in the world. A wolf doesn’t merely get by when the circumstances around him get tough. Assuming some human with a gun doesn’t shoot him first, he thrives and prospers.
Wolves don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves or complaining that life isn’t fair. They adapt to the situation at hand by accepting their circumstances and leveraging the resources available at the time to come out ahead. How do you behave when things just aren’t going your way? Do you crumble and give up, or do you think like a wolf and persevere?
When I was younger, I have to admit that I didn’t think much like a wolf at all. I had genuine obstacles in my life standing in between me and the things I wanted for myself. But instead of looking for ways around them, I sat around feeling pissed off that things weren’t as easy for me as they were for a lot of my friends. Things began to turn around for me when I learned to adapt and use the few assets I did have to my advantage.
2. Loyalty is vital when it comes to relationships.
No one gets what it means to be a team player quite like a wolf. A wolf pack that doesn’t work together as one is a pack that doesn’t eat, can’t grow, and won’t survive. Wolves will do anything to protect their mates, families, and loved ones, including lay down their own lives.
Wolves also understand there’s no place in your life for selfishness when you’re part of a pack, so each individual accepts his position in the broader social structure. He also understands that the rules of the pack aren’t there to cramp his style. They’re there for everyone’s good, including his own, so he follows them. He also remains loyal come what may, and he trusts his fellow pack members to do the same.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family that wasn’t anything like a wolf pack. No one ever had anyone else’s best interests at heart or looked out for anyone else. Naturally, I learned many toxic lessons that took time to unlearn, but I now understand from challenging personal experience how important loyalty is and what a massive difference it makes. Good, loyal people are worth their weight in gold, and they’re rarer than you think. Treasure the ones you have in your life, and do right by them always.
3. Loners have what it takes to kill it out there, too.
Like humans, wolves are social animals who usually band together and work together in groups. However, lone wolves that wind up separated from the rest of the pack exist, as well. Lone wolves aren’t doomed to fail, nor or they worthless. A wolf’s adaptability and natural tenacity make it possible for him to learn to look after himself and become successful independently. Some wolves may even be better suited to life on their own, just like people.
Anyone who was ever bullied for being a natural loner or marching to the beat of their own drummer knows all too well that it isn’t exactly fun to be rejected by others or to otherwise feel like you don’t belong. You don’t need to fit in or be good at blending with others to take the world by storm and kill it when it comes to realizing your dreams, though.
Like a lot of natural loners, I’ve never fit in well with others. I’ve always been my own person and had my own way of doing things. When I was younger, I let other people convince me that being different made me a loser. Then I made like a wolf and adapted, realizing along the way that I was actually just a different sort of winner. My personal life improved drastically when I learned to value quality over quantity when it came to friends, even if that sometimes meant not having any. I work best on my own, too, so it wasn’t surprising when self-employment turned out to be a good fit for me.
4. Play and rest are just as important as hard work.
Tracking, hunting, and bringing down enough prey to feed a pack full of hungry bellies is grueling work that takes a lot out of a wolf. Without enough rest and downtime to recharge, even the strongest, smartest wolf will not get very far. Wolves also make room in their lives to play and have a good time when nothing critical is going on.
Wolves have the concept of work/life balance down to a science, and humans could greatly benefit by following suit. Unlike wolves, we humans seem to take pride in willingly running ourselves into the ground. We ruin our health, destroy our sense of wellbeing, and ignore irreplaceable relationships until they shrivel up and die. Then we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering what the hell happened.
It’s OK to take pride in your work ethic and to be passionate about whatever it is you do for a living. Professional success and money aren’t worth much without a rich, full life to invest in, though. Also, taking the time to rest and play when you have the opportunity tends to make you more productive, not less. Think of your furry friend, the wolf, and try it sometime. You’ll love the results, I promise.
5. Life’s too short not to show your love for others openly.
Like many other canids, wolves form extremely close bonds with their friends, mates, children, and families. They’re not afraid to show affection for those they care for, either. They nuzzle, lick, and groom one another frequently. They also openly demonstrate loving support for other pack members who may need it. Wolves usually mate for life and show exceptionally strong affection for their life partners, as well.
For some reason, many humans think there’s something shameful about being openly and unabashedly affectionate with people they care for. Some think it makes them look weak or dependent. Men especially may worry that it makes them seem less masculine. In actuality, there’s no greater show of strength and pride in yourself than a willingness to honor those you love in front of others.
Neither you nor your loved ones will live forever. Take time out of your busy life to show them you love them now — today. Let them know how much they matter to you, and do it as often as you’re moved to. Don’t worry about who might be watching. You may even inspire an onlooker to be more open with their own loved ones.
Like many of the creatures we share the planet with, wolves aren’t as different from us humans as they may seem at first. Learning about them and growing to love them over the years has taught me a lot about how to live a well-rounded, purposeful life that feels beautiful and full. May it do the same for you.