"Don’t look for zebras."

"It was right in front of your face."

"It’s as easy as pumpkin pie."

Sayings are sayings for a reason.  And there are lots of sayings about how we, humans with brains that can communicate our thoughts in several different ways, often take the simplest things in life and make them many times more difficult than they need to be.  For me, the hard way was the only way for most of my 40+ years.   If it was easy then there was a catch, and something was wrong.  I needed to beware and look for the loopholes…because…nothing…comes…easy.  

I recently realized that I am definitely not a “do as I say” type. I must do for myself and figure it out “the hard way” and then come back to you and have to mutter the dreaded words, “you were right”. I also discovered that I tend to look at situations and make them hard.  Such as climbing a mountain. I grab my 50 lb backpack, strap it on, trudge uphill (both ways), in 100* temperatures, with no water, and forget my hat at home.

But this zebra hunting method never really worked for me.  If I managed to get where I was going, the long, scenic route left me exhausted.  By the time I settled in and was able to enjoy the fruits of my labor it would be time to head back out and climb down the mountain (going uphill again), which always ended up being harder.

When I was in school for my Master’s in Marriage and Family counseling, I remember the first time I heard the saying, “don’t look for zebras.”  Of course, I had to ask what this meant and then I struggled with why this was.  I mean, shouldn’t we take all possibilities into consideration when trying to help someone find out what’s wrong and how to make it better?  But, looking for the oddball diagnosis was almost always fruitless for a reason.   The oddballs are oddballs because they are oddballs.  They just don’t occur that often. So, it’s better for everyone to stick to the common possibilities first.

This ended up being the very piece of advice that I needed to follow all these years.  I can probably list 100 situations I got myself into that if I would’ve just looked at the situation, went for the obvious “it’s right in front of your face” scenario and grabbed my pumpkin pie for a bite, I would’ve resolved my problem quickly and been able to move one.  My brain likes to think it’s too good for the obvious and goes straight for the rainbow, colored zebra…and it’s always wrong.   

I actually suck when it comes to using the good ol’ sayings properly, even though I like to try…so, I’ll end with this.  When the solution to your problem seems too good to be true, grab it, run with it, and if you end up being wrong in the end, then you can boast about having found the zebra.  

Leave me your favorite saying in the comments.

Amy S

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