At a WISDOMS™ Chat session we discussed what we believed it takes to be successful. One answer was “perseverance and hard work.” Nothing wrong with that, if you know you’re on the path that is taking you where you want to go.

If you look ahead two or five or ten years into your life, is what you’re doing now going to get you what you want then? When you look at the people in positions you want to be, are they doing the things and do they have the lifestyle that appeal to you?

When you look back is what you’ve doing for the last several years getting you where you want to be? If not, what do you need to change? You might not know what will work, but you certainly won’t know if you don’t try something different.

Hope for the Flowers

Trina Paulus wrote a simple story in words and pictures called hope for the flowers. Stripe is a caterpillar who sets out from his usual leaf-eating to seek more. On his journey he comes across a column of “squirming, pushing caterpillars” — read “hard-working and persevering”.

All these caterpillars, forming a “caterpillar pillar”, are trying to get to the top but the top is hidden in the clouds. Stripe gets very excited. This is surely the ‘more’ he has been looking for. Unfortunately, no-one has any time to explain anything because they’re all so busy trying to get to the top. No-one knows what’s at the top but because everyone is trying to get there they are convinced it must be good. Stripe commits himself to the fray to discover for himself.

So begins the great climb. He pushes and shoves and climbs with every now and then just the nagging question playing on his mind, “What’s really at the top?” When the question bothered him too much he would say to himself with exasperation, “I don’t know, but there’s no time to think about it!”

One day he finds himself talking to another caterpillar, Yellow, who’s also been wondering where they are going. Suddenly the striving up the pillar doesn’t seem so attractive any more so they both decided to ball together and fall to the bottom. This begins a happy time of sharing life together and loving each other.

But after a while Stripe can’t help wondering “There must be still more to life.” His hankering to find out the secret at the top of the pillar becomes so strong he has to pursue it. Yellow also has a longing to get ‘up’ too, but she is not convinced that the pillar is the way to do it. So Stripe goes on his way and Yellow stays behind.

Yellow sees a grey-haired caterpillar hanging upside down in a tree who tells her he is doing what it takes to become a butterfly. He describes a butterfly as flying with beautiful wings, joining the earth to heaven. Yellow can’t believe it. “How can I believe there’s a butterfly inside you or me when all I see is a fuzzy worm?”

The grey caterpillar tells Yellow that to become a butterfly she must want to fly so much that she is willing to give up being a caterpillar. Yellow is torn, “How could she risk the only life she knew when it seemed so unlikely she could ever be a glorious winged creature?” Yellow decides to take the advice of the grey caterpillar and also follow the hope tugging inside of her. She starts to spin her own cocoon, saying to herself, “If I have inside me the stuff to make cocoons-maybe the stuff to make butterflies is there too.”

Stripe in the mean time is determinedly and single-mindedly climbing the pillar. Until he gets to the top to discover there’s nothing there at all. It only looked good from the bottom. What’s more as he looks out from his vantage point he sees hundreds of other caterpillar pillars rising from the ground. As the despair rises within him a beautiful yellow butterfly reaches out to him and he knows he is meant for a different life.

So he slides down the pillar telling as many caterpillars along the way that there’s nothing there realizing now that to get to the “top” he must fly, not climb. But his joy at this thought is short lived. He begins to doubt. He has no proof and begins to think, “Did I make it up because I needed it so much?”

Eventually he reaches the bottom where the exquisite yellow butterfly leads him to a branch with dried cocoon threads. Slowly it dawns on him what he needs to do — let go of everything.

At the end of the book is a drawing of a bright yellow butterfly flitting across the sky accompanied by a striped one.

It’s just a story, right?

It’s just a story, of course. But maybe it holds the seeds of truth, and hope.

Maybe take a moment to reflect on what pillar you may be struggling up and do you know what lies at the top? And then what do you have within you that is the stuff made for flying rather than climbing?