The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers
Taking responsibility obliges us to scrutinize our own complicity in our life’s difficulties, in the bad decisions, in the less-than-ideal circumstances. When we think about our health, our professional lives, our relationships or any other area where grievances live, what have we done/are we doing to perpetuate a miserable pattern? How have we conspired with the negative influences to get us where we’re at? Why do we continue to accept situations that genuinely don’t work for us?
That said, it’s not about chastising ourselves. Taking responsibility for our lives doesn’t call us to emotionally beat ourselves up...
Maybe we really did get a raw deal – in childhood, in the job market, in our first marriage, in that bout with cancer. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean forgetting the past or turning over all awareness of the difficulties we’ve faced. I think it’s more a question of owning our lives – for all their mixed circumstances.
This flies in the face of our ancestors’ culture of immediacy. There’s something to that living in the here and now rather than for the sometime-down-the-road. I think it’s possible to balance the two for the benefit of both, but it’s a deal with the devil to think we can continually neglect ourselves for the people and projected future of our lives. Our sense of balance must demand current and continual well-being for ourselves. When we are nourished and sustained today, we have more to offer to those around us and to our futures.
Build a Tribe
In this day and age, we live in proximity to numbers that would’ve stunned our ancestors. We count our social media “friends” into the hundreds, but we often miss a sense of close, constant connection. Exposure doesn’t fill our social wells. Neither do status updates.
If you find yourself at this point in your life without a core group, build one. Don’t make the excuse that you just missed the boat. It’s just too important. You’ll be glad you didn’t later. Feed this “highly successful” habit by first deepening the relationships you already have. When you begin seeing your partner, family members, kids, and closer friends as your tribe, you gain a whole new level of appreciation for the role they play in your life.
For our ancestors, life was an exercise in continual hyper-vigilance. Not every second, but close. It wasn’t just the risk of becoming another creature’s dinner either. Attentiveness also meant watching for weather, catching migratory patterns, and deciphering water sources – just to name a few examples.
The Primal Connection is to be found in giving the moment your full attention. It’s about minding the difference between thoughtful deliberation or reflection and so-called monkey brain. It’s about throwing off the strangling self-absorption we trap ourselves in every day standing in line with our phones or with our mental chatter. See the people, places, and possibilities in front of you.
The thing about us hominids, is this. We think. We imagine. We create. We explore. We experiment and extrapolate. We’re driven to go around yet another corner of the path. We’ll push the envelope continually because it feels good to do it. It’s how we got ahead in the evolutionary game, how we’re so vastly successful after all. The wheel didn’t invent itself. Neither did all the continents come knocking at the door of the African savannah. You get the point.
Fast forward to today, and we’re a tale of contradiction. As a species we’ve advanced to the outer edges of the solar system. As individuals, however, our daily lives might not appear so inspiring. The thing is, we’re so ungodly busy. We’ve got filled calendars, packed schedules, pocket-sized devices and big screen distractions to keep us occupied and then some.
Trust Your Gut
That said, we do carry the same genes, the same inherent abilities to tap into the telling but understated detail of our environment (and each other). When we feel this again, use it and strengthen it like a neglected muscle, we also become more in touch with our own gut sense. There’s something decidedly Primal about the philosophies that say we find self-awareness and “awake-ness” in true silence.
Pick Your Battles
Ask yourself where your energy goes. Ask yourself what amount of risk you take, what amount of conflict you generate or accept in your life? Is it worth it? This doesn’t mean nothing is worth a risk or nothing is worth fighting for. It’s simply a recognition that your time, energy and other resources are limited. At a midlife inventory or, worse yet, the end of life, will you feel you pursued the right relationships and endeavors and let go at the right times? Were you the best person you could’ve been in those relationships? Is there a chance you’ll say to yourself, “I fought all the wrong battles”?
Get Over It
As Michael E. McCullough, author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, explains, the ability to forgive is as much a result of natural selection as the impulse for revenge. Forgiveness, he suggests, likely evolved as a means of social cooperation. For our ancestors, life was about conservation – of energy, of resources, of good will. In a cost-benefit analysis, nursing an unrelenting grudge would’ve been a major liability. If you couldn’t get along with the group, eventually you likely wouldn’t have been welcome anymore. Be upset, sure. But once it starts eroding the group dynamic, you’d better find yourself another band. The risk wasn’t worth the emotional indulgence.
Sharpen Your Spear
Whatever stage of the game you’re at, make the investment in yourself. Pursue a new career that aligns more with your passion. Delve into a hobby that gives you genuine pleasure. Resist the modern idea that life or professional success has to follow a linear track. Define your personal trajectory in terms of your own satisfaction and sense of self-development rather than an outside template. You decide what tools and skills you’ll hone and the value you’ll assign to them at varying points in your life.
What does abundance mean to you? While we don’t need to swear off the blessings of modern conveniences and novelty, it’s important to define our most deep-seated priorities. What genuinely nourishes you at the physical level? What fills your intellectual, creative, social, emotional and spiritual dimensions, however you conceive of them? Too often we wind ourselves around a bloated and distorted sense of our basic needs (e.g. food, shelter and security, every knick-knack that Pottery Barn sells) all while depriving ourselves of the latter dimensions (e.g. genuine and close friends, time and outlets for self expression and development, etc.).