It’s the Year of the Dog, and as we em-bark, there is no better time to extoll the virtues of our favorite four-legged friends. The dog lover/rescuer in me could simply point to the cuddles, kisses and undying loyalty I receive on a daily basis, but that’s really just the beginning.
As a professional life coach, working to help people move their lives forward, I think about the role dogs play in our lives. And if we let them, they can be the life coaches we all need to help us thrive in this Year of the Dog and beyond.
Let’s explore 3 ways…
Your Dog Thinks You’re Awesome…Believe Them
Fat, thin, single, married, rich, poor, gainfully employed or recovering from a pink slip, your dog thinks you are their moon, their stars, their sun, their universe. And yet, we’re often stuck thinking about ourselves as merely adequate, barely acceptable.
In my practice, I constantly come up against this mistaken notion that if my clients are anything but hard on themselves, they’re falling behind. Losing at life. And when I point out the long list of their strengths, talents and innate worthiness, they don’t believe me. And even more striking, they will go to great lengths to try and convince me of their failings.
This glaring contradiction speaks to how our culture has focused on faults and deficits; obsessing on what we need to be better at rather than enjoying who we are and what we already have. Add in social media’s influence, which often comes from a place of ‘less-than’, and it’s not hard to see why so many feel like they’re losing at life.
I’m not saying one shouldn’t have goals, commitments, and work hard to honor them – but instead, of having your perceived weaknesses fuel your process, be driven by the best of what makes you, you. Because the fuel of negativity won’t sustain your engine for very long.
Instead, look at how your dog rolls. Never propelled forward by an image of their “failing self,” always secure in what they bring to the table. Real change, real success, and the ability to enjoy it, comes from knowing you are worth it. If not, how can someone ever get past the inevitable adversity that comes with change?
Let’s throw out this obsession with our weaknesses like a bag of proverbial dog poo.
When you have the instinct to beat yourself up after reading about your ‘frenemy’ from high school’s success in her insta-feed, stop yourself. Look down at your dog. Are they ever measuring their self worth against the dog across the street? Uh, no! So remind yourself that you ARE the person your dog thinks you are.
Dogs Let Things Go
One of my first rescues was of a horrifically neglected dog named Hope from the South Los Angeles Shelter. I won’t go in to too much detail but she was gaunt, her body covered in gashes, and struggling with an upper-respiratory infection that caused her to sneeze and wheeze as she walked.
And yet as Hope emerged from the shelter, her little tail began to wag and she gave me the most tender, heartfelt kiss. Her ability to feel love after so much cruelty was her truth. She wasn’t holding on to the abuse she obviously had endured.
Sure, you can chalk up a dog’s ability to leave the past behind to their brain structure, but the lesson is nonetheless important, and one that humans can learn from our four-legged friends. Because, really, how does clinging to the stories of our past serve us anyway? I mean, yeah, we need to learn from the past, but holding on tightly to transgressions against us or mistakes we’ve made won’t help anyone move forward. Instead, it keeps us stuck in a compromised life.
Accept and Acknowledge what has happened in your life and then focus on what’s next.
Write a forgiveness letter to yourself or the person who has hurt you. Pour it all out on the page then rip it up, like a dog ripping up the grass after a big pee…kick it up and move on your merry way.
Turn it Off
In our 24/7 society one of the biggest challenges is time management.
Not so much in terms of getting work done, but rather the work of keeping up. Social media, news, online shopping, it keeps all of us constantly set to the ON position.
The effects of this aren’t good. According to a study from the University of Konstanz in Germany, “thinking about work constantly may make it difficult to stay productive in the long run…There must be time to ‘switch off.” Furthermore, a nonstop schedule made people more easily “irritated.”
But look at dogs. They go to work too. Guarding our homes. Protecting against the postman. Growling when sketchy characters enter our personal space. You know what dogs do after “work?” They shut off the world around them, lie down, and lick their nether regions until they are then ready to take a snooze. They inherently understand that always operating with the power switch flipped on eventually leads to no power.
Of course, our dogs don’t have to pay bills or worry about the mortgage, but extended work days don’t even show an increase in productivity! So why not take a page from your dog?
Like your dog, follow life’s circadian rhythms. At the end of day, turn off your mind, lick your nether regions and go to sleep. You’ll be ready and more successful to go after the postman, I mean the sale, tomorrow.
Activate the do not disturb feature on your smart phone and find something to do that grabs your attention but that isn’t work. Read a book, take a walk with your dog, chew on a bone if that helps. Just move away from the stimuli of work.
So celebrate this Year of the Dog by, well, living more like your dog. Don’t hold onto things. Go through life as the best version of yourself, and after a long day at work, don’t come home simply to do more work. But instead, be like your dog, grab your favorite chew toy and have at it.