How I Was Taught Self-Determination by a Spider

Last week as I was leaving the house to my right, attached to the railing, was an enormous spider web. No spider – just a few bits and pieces of trapped bugs. I was fascinated by the geometric intricacies of this construction, and couldn’t believe that a little spider had the instinct to produce such a structure.

That night I opened the door and there, right in the center of the web, was the spider, very still and not moving. After that I understood the schedule of the spider – disappears by day, eats and weaves by night.

I would sometimes forget about the spider, and a few days later, I opened the door again and there, right in the middle of the web, was the enormous spider. It scared the —- out of me! No longer was it cute. This was a serious spider who had taken up residence on our property.

That night came the hurricane of the year with, in the city, extremely strong winds and torrential rains. The next morning the web had disappeared. The next night it had been rebuilt and the spider reappeared. Then more rains, and more disappearing and more rebuilding. I thought this growing spider had to be exhausted, and possibly thinking (with a head shake) “Oh no. Again?????”

I was so impressed with the ferocity of this spider’s purpose. I began to think about my life and my purpose. Am I this driven? Would I rebuild over and over again? Would I allow myself the same vulnerability as the spider building a web out in the open, facing all types of danger? Yes, survival does play a big part in its tenacity, as I suppose, the foundation of our survival involves determination.

On a day-to-day basis, are you this tenacious?

Defining Self-Determination

What exactly is self-determination? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the freedom to make your own choices.” Freedom is a good, positive word. This means we can control our own lives, make our own decisions, and design our own destinies.

So who is this self-confident and determined person? He or she:

  1. Has control over their life.
  2. Is accountable for their own actions and takes blame when justified.
  3. Reaches inside and is self-motivated rather than relying on others to encourage them based on their values.
  4. Decides actions determined by their goals.

I was that person a few years ago. I really never had major goals in my life, and I felt I was missing out on a vital part of my inner growth. Because I was getting older, and becoming more and more unsatisfied with my career, I thought, This is it! This is the time to make a huge change in my life. And I was ready to do anything I could to make this change. And having completed the work to become a coach, I had never felt so satisfied in my life. I worked hard, and I loved it because I was in control. I was the one calling the shots on my life.

How Can You Develop Self-Determination (like a spider)?

So, let’s return to the spider and its web. You can think about this web as a metaphor for your goal. You can even create or draw it to help with this visual:

Click to enlarge


The center of the web is your goal. The surrounding silk compartments are the steps it takes to achieve your goal. While going through the 6 tips to develop your self-determination below, you can decide how many steps it might take for you to reach your goal. Then, number each step from the outside to the center – the center being 1 (or any variation you feel comfortable with).

Here are 6 tips you can follow to help in developing determination:

  1. Acknowledge to yourself what your values are and what’s important to you. Set one or two personal goals around these values. What can you do to make them an integral part of your daily life? What would your web look like?
  2. The first thing is to ask yourself, “Why?” What’s the feeling behind this goal?
  3. Think about what is preventing you from attaining these goals? Figure out how you can solve these barriers.
  4. Do you need to develop more skills to reach mastery in your goal? Determine what is needed for training.
  5. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and try to play to your strengths.
  6. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to others for support. You don’t have to carry the weight yourself.

The spider’s determination has achieved about half the steps mentioned above (it’s an arachnid, after all). Its innate instincts know what it must do to survive.

Lesson learned

What have I learned from this little monster? Keep going. Everything is possible. If the spider can do it, you can too!

If you would like some support in developing your self-determination, please fill out the form on the Work With Me page, and we can work out something.

Take care and be safe!