A traveller to a small Greek island once watched as a young boy tried to persuade the family donkey to move. The boy had vegetables to deliver and he’d carefully loaded up the animal’s panniers. But the donkey wasn’t in the mood for moving. The boy became more and more agitated and started to shout at the donkey, standing in front of him and pulling hard on the rope. The donkey dug in his hooves firmly. Very firmly.
This tug of war might have gone on a long time if it wasn’t for the boy’s grandfather. Hearing the commotion, he came out of the house and took in the familiar scene at a glance—the unequal battle between donkey and boy. Gently, he took the rope from his grandson. Smiling, he said, ‘When he’s in this mood, try it this way: take the rope loosely in your hand like this, then stand very close beside him, and look down the track in the direction you want to go. Then wait.’
The boy did as his grandfather had bade him, and after a few moments, the donkey started to walk forward. The boy giggled with delight, and the traveller watched as animal and boy trotted off happily, side by side, down the track and round the far bend.
How often in your life have you behaved like the small boy tugging on the donkey’s bridle? When things aren’t working out as you’d like them to, it’s tempting to try a little harder, to keep pushing and pulling in the direction you want to go. But is it always sensible to keep mindlessly pushing in one direction? Or should you follow the advice of the old man in the story and pause, before simply waiting for things to pan out as they will, spotting opportunities as they arise?