Early Birds or Early Worms

“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm”
- Franklin D Roosevelt

In the tranquil hours of dawn, the natural world comes to life, and while most of us are still in the land of nod, birds are busy taking advantage of the peace and feeding on the abundance of tasty morsels on offer. Those birds which start their day the earliest get their pick of the juiciest worms, which is why someone who arrives first to make the most of the opportunities are often referred to as early birds. However, little thought is given to those early worms – they don’t fare very well in this deal – their reward for getting up early is to become someone else’s breakfast.

The metaphor of the early bird and the early worm applies in many ways to human life choices and behaviours which will you may recognise in your experiences and those of people around you. While being punctual is a commendable trait, the key to success does not always lie in being first in line. Consider John, who is seeking a job, and hears of a golden opportunity with a local business. He rushes to arrange an interview, believing that a quick application will increase his chances of being selected for the role. However, in his hurry to present himself,  he neglects to prepare by taking time to learn about the company – and falls at the first hurdle when questioned by the interviewer on what attracted him to the position.  In essence, John becomes that ill-fated worm.

Or how about Susan, who has problems in settling into a secure relationship. She has a pattern which repeats itself over and again: she meets a new love interest and throws herself into the partnership wholeheartedly, before she has really gotten to know the person. Perhaps this is due to an insecurity – if she doesn’t get that commitment from this fantastic new person, someone else might snatch them up. A  few weeks or months down the line, the relationship inevitably sours. Susan’s behaviour has suffocated their new partner by asking for too much too soon, or the partner has turned out to be quite different in personality than she initially thought. 

Both of these cases would benefit from understanding that every situation merits time taken to look inside and become “ready”. John could have taken time to ask himself questions like “what do I hope to gain by taking this role” and “what inspires me to do this particular job”. Susan could benefit from taking time out to resolve the issues that occur in her relationships and ask herself what she could learn from previous partings.

 A successful coach can help their client in a number of ways :

  • Encourage the client to ask themselves questions to clarify their goals.
  • Establish the client’s need to look at the bigger picture as well as paying attention to details – there is no point in being on time, if you are in the wrong place.
  • Help the client to think ahead that what are the consequences of their actions.
  • Improve the client’s ability to assess situations and decide what preparations are needed in order to succeed.
  • Allow the client to gain new perspective on areas of their life and learn from where they could have taken a different approach.
  • Suggest techniques that the client can use to take away something positive from any situation and ways which lessons learnt can be applied.

 [Coaching Questions]

  •  Are you an “early bird” or an “early worm”?
  • Are you ready? How do you prepare yourself and get ready?
  • What specific results are you looking to achieve as you strive to meet your goals?
  • How do I direct my energy to get there?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
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