What The Hermit Crab Can Teach Us About Change
By Chris Palmer, M.A.
I saw a hermit crab change shells just now.
My kids have had hermit crab’s for years and I’ve never been able to see one get out of its shell and climb into another one.
I’ve heard about it. It’s what hermit crabs do when they outgrow a shell, don’t like it anymore, or are curious about another shell to use as protection for their delicate bodies.
But I’ve never seen it because they plan it carefully and then do the move quickly, usually when no one is around.
It’s safer that way.
But it made me think as I watched it all happen: that crab deals with change in a really productive and healthy kind of way.
It has a shell to protect its more delicate and vulnerable parts.
It changes shells when it outgrows it or wants to try something new.
It takes its time deciding, really weighing out the options.
And then it’s careful and places itself in the safest reasonable position possible, to make the transition quick and relatively risk free.
It’s all very well thought out. But none of it is perfect. And none of it is without risk.
It’s just so practical.
I mean if the crab stayed in its original shell for fear of being eaten by predators, it would be stuck or at least restricted as it grew.
And if it took too long to change shells, another crab might choose the other shell and the opportunity would be gone.
But if it made the decision too quickly, it might not fit in the new shell at all. And then it would really be in danger.
Nothing is perfect of course. Even the best planned transitions can end in a predator attack.
But mostly that doesn’t happen.
The crab’s system of deciding and transitioning is practical, recognizes and calculates the dangers involved, and makes the most out of a tough situation.
It’s a great lesson for us.
In life, we can’t always be absolutely safe, no matter how hard we try.
We can’t always have the perfect plan or the perfect transition or the perfect anything.
And if we hesitate to make a change, we could stay stuck. And the pain of living in a “shell” we’ve outgrown gets more painful every day.
It’s easy to understand why so many of us don’t follow the crab’s lead. Fear is a killer. And there is so much to be afraid of in life.
But once you realize that so far you’ve survived every bad decision you’ve ever made, the crab’s idea seems to make more sense.
When we feel we’ve outgrown part of our life, we can always make the choice to change.
We can make it safer by thinking it through first.
And when we do make the change, we can do it when it seems reasonably safe, because there will never be a perfect moment.
It’s always our choice.
No one wants to stay stuck in a bad situation. But sometimes the fear paralyzes us.
The crab knows fear and he faces it head on.
You can too.