My recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park, located just outside of Port Elizabeth, was an amazing adventure. The park, the third largest in South Africa, was founded in 1931 to provide a sanctuary for the 11 remaining elephants in the area. In the ensuing decades, the elephant population has grown to over 600; quite an impressive feat, considering an elephant’s gestation period is almost two years and the constant threat of ivory hunters.

While elephant sightings are common throughout the park, they are typically seen from a considerable distance. However, one can get a little closer near the several watering holes where they gather to drink water, cool themselves off, and frolic in the shallow pools. These are communal gatherings for the elephants; smaller roving herds come together to join in this refreshing activity.

Sitting in a car with binoculars, staring at 35+ elephants gathered at a watering hole, initially they can appear indistinguishable. As you focus on the spectacle before you though, certain elephants begin to stand out from the herd and these are the ones that draw your attention. Proof that, even in the midst of an extraordinary event, there are always those who make an impression.

So what can we as women who want to stand out from the herd learn from these beautiful creatures? Here are some thoughts:

  • Make Some Noise.There is not much noise at the watering hole, except for the shuffling of elephants trying to squeeze into position closer to the water. So when there is, everyone tends to take notice. Women have to do the same. Putting your head down and just focusing on the work or task in front of you doesn’t get you noticed, it gets you more work on your plate. You have to blow your own horn! You have to let others, such as your boss, clients and friends, know what you have accomplished and why it’s important. When you do, others can then take up the clarion call of your accomplishments.
  • Butt Heads. While elephants are pretty docile within the herd, they are highly protective of their young, and can be very intent on getting their own way. They don’t think twice about turning around and butting heads with an interloper who has interfered with their own or their offspring’s enjoyment of the watering hole. As women we have to do the same. When you are not being treated equally, with respect, considered in the discussion, or whatever the reason, these are times you must and should stand up for yourself. Forget the meek and mild approach, but you also don’t’ have to be mean or vindictive. Just as in the animal kingdom, relationships are extremely important for survival. You can challenge someone without making them an enemy.
  • Wallow in the Water. Most elephants you see at the watering hole will stand around the water, siphoning it into their trunks before transferring to their mouths or spraying over their backs. The ones that stand out however, are wallowing in the water. They stretch out and dunk their whole bodies. Not shy, they are literally wallowing in the cooling water, sometimes emerging covered in mud. As women we can find it hard to take time for ourselves, typically putting others’ needs first and standing aside to care for others. If you want to stand out from the herd, take the time to pamper and put yourself first. Forget what everyone else’s needs are and focus on your own. The reality is that when you take care of yourself, you will then have the energy and inclination to take care of others.
  • Kick the Dirt Away. While most elephants just stand around drinking water, there are a few that take the time to widen the watering hole by kicking the dirt and mud away. Be like these elephants and take action, rather than waiting for life to happen. Getting noticed and standing out from the herd means being proactive, tenacious, and not simply settling.
  • Explore the Area. There are always a few elephants that stand out by exploring the areas adjacent to the watering holes. They are ensuring all is safe and there are no predators encroaching on the site. While women don’t necessarily need to look out for predators, as humans we always run the risk of being left behind if we aren’t continually learning and exploring the world around us. Challenge yourself by reading, studying in your field, and keeping your mind active.

ACTION: What actions can you take to ensure you are standing out from the crowd around you?

Kathy Hart’s driving passion is human change and transformation. Her goal is to provide professional women in midlife (ages 40 – 65) with the support and resources needed to re-imagine and lead even more abundant, joy-filled and purpose-driven lives. If you are a woman wanting to reclaim your voice, realize a long-held dream, or just live your life to the fullest, take concrete action by contacting Kathy at kathy@clearvisionconsult.com. The choice is yours!

Services that Kathy offers:

  • 1:1 coaching to support the next journey into your midlife transition
  • Trusted advisor for leaders navigating work changes and requiring an expert guide
  • Speaking and workshops on human change and transformation
  • Small group work and team development to boost the group’s performance