Carrots, Eggs, and Coffee Beans Parable (Author Unknown)
A young woman came to her mother feeling down and defeated. It seemed like she couldn’t catch a break and nothing was going her way. She wanted to give up.
The mother took her daughter into the kitchen and boiled 3 pots of water. In the first pot of water, the mother threw in some carrots. In the second pot of water, she threw in some eggs. In the third pot of water, she threw in some coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In about 20 minutes, the mother turned off the stove and dished out the carrots, eggs, and coffee into separate bowls. The mother turned to her daughter and asked her, “What do you see?”
The daughter responded, “carrots, eggs, and coffee.” The mother brought the bowls closer to her daughter. The mother asked her daughter to feel the carrots and the daughter noticed that they were soft. The mother asked her daughter to break the eggs and the daughter noticed that the insides were hard. The mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee and the daughter drank the rich aroma. The daughter asked, “What does this mean?”
The mother explained that the carrots, eggs, and coffee beans all faced the same adversity—boiling water. But each reacted differently:
- The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
- The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.
- The ground coffee beans were unique. The coffee beans transformed the water into coffee.
The mother asked her daughter, “Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, egg, or coffee bean?”
Merriam-Webster’s definition of resiliency reads, “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Life is full of adversity. But adversity holds the key to transformation. With each set back that we face, there is an opportunity to learn about ourselves. We can do this by remembering the 2 A’s: Acknowledgeand Adapt.
Acknowledge: Allow your heart to feel, your mind to think, and your body to respond. When we face adversity, we might experience mixed emotions like anger, pain, and embarrassment. Our mind might experience different thoughts like, “It’s not fair! I’m not good enough. I’m never doing this again.” Our body might react with muscle tension, stomachaches, and tearfulness.
Adapt: Shift your mindset and relax your body. Focus on what you tell yourself. Change the following language:
- “It’s not fair!” to “It’s not a good fit.”
- “I’m not good enough” to “I’m a hard worker.”
- “I’m never doing this again” to “Stepping outside of my comfort zone is difficult.”
Focus on deep breathing and relaxing your muscle groups when they are tensed from stress. This two-pronged approach will help you shift your perspective and adapt to hardship.
By acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and body responses, you validate yourself and you recognize your reactions on three different levels. Once you accept those reactions, you can identify maladaptive responses such as negative self-talk (e.g. “I’m not good enough.”) or negative somatic symptoms (e.g. stomachache).
The next step is to transform the maladaptive response by shifting your perspective through positive self-talk (e.g. “I’m a hard worker.”) and relaxation exercises (e.g. deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation). Practicing these strategies will condition your body to adapt in a positive way.