A summit register on a mountain is used by hikers and climbers to record their ascents – typically their name, the date and time, and perhaps some notes about the weather, the route, and that wonderful feeling of standing on the summit of something big. Here, it’s the name for my newsletter and blog about coaching and life. Enjoy!
At my family’s Christmas Day dinner this year, we were joined by my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law (is there an official term for that? I don’t think so!), who is a truck driver and happened to be in the area. I was fascinated by Niko’s story, and most of all by his obvious enthusiasm for his job.
He’s a Bosnian Serb, and spent much of his high school years living without electricity or heat in his war-torn country. He has always wanted to be a truck driver – as a child he had one toy car, and the rest were all toy trucks. He wanted to go right into truck driving after high school, but his parents insisted he go to college. They were hoping that he would get interested in another career track (something more “prestigious,” perhaps?).
But his dream of becoming a truck driver in the United States never wavered. When he received his degree, he took his diploma to his parents, presented it to them, and said, “Now can I drive trucks?” To his parents’ credit, they recognized that no matter how much they might want him to do something else, he wanted to drive trucks – always had, and always would. So they didn’t stand in his way.
Now, he’s achieved his dream – he’s been in the States at least two years, after spending some time in British Columbia. He loves driving, he loves his truck, he loves getting to go all over the country, he loves the adventure of not knowing where he’s going to be sent until he picks up his load, he loves looking out the window of his cab in the mornings and seeing whatever view of nature he has, and all of that enthusiasm literally radiates off of him.
I always admire people who not only know what it is they want to do, but don’t give in to pressure just because those around them – especially the people who love them the most, and no matter how well-intentioned – believe they should do something else. In fact, my dad chose law in large part because he thought it would make his parents proud, and not because it was something he was naturally good at or even really wanted to do. And he paid the price – and so did we.
Regardless of whether or not we’re as clear about what we want to do as Niko, we often allow ourselves to be convinced to do things because they’re practical, or because we think we have to live up to someone else’s expectations. But in my experience, that always backfires at some point. If you really want to do something (or know you really don’t want to do something), that’s your intuition pointing you in the direction you need to go. And we’re always better off listening to it.
This is an especially good time of year to listen to that little voice inside of us, especially if it’s telling us that something in our lives or work isn’t quite right, and even if we don’t know what it is that we want. Because when we start taking steps towards something new, regardless of whether or not we know what it is, paths and possibilities will open up that we never could have imagined.
Start taking those steps through one of my two holiday coaching specials. Don’t delay! They’re only available through December 31st, 2018.
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This story came into my inbox the other day, and I wanted to share it with you (it’s from Marc and Angel Chernoff’s Hack Life blog, which I highly recommend).
So here’s what happened: a client of theirs had run into the grocery store in the morning to pick up two small items. As this man walked to the front of the store, he saw there was only one checkout line open, and there was a woman with a huge cart of groceries and a baby ahead of him. He sighed and got in line, with a sinking feeling that what should have been a quick errand was now going to take much longer.
He got more and more frustrated as the woman and the cashier began chatting, and oohing and aahing over the baby, seemingly unaware that he was also waiting. As he was just about to blow up, he remembered to take a deep breath. He thought to himself, “This isn’t the end of the world. It’s not ideal, but it isn’t the end of the world. And, that baby is actually really cute.” And as he switched his focus to those thoughts, the cashier finished ringing the woman up, and soon she and the baby and all the groceries were on their way.
When he got up to the cashier, he commented, “That baby was really adorable, wasn’t she?” The cashier said, “Thank you, sir.” Then she went on to say, “That’s actually my baby. You see, my husband was killed in Afghanistan, and my sister watches her a few days a week so that I can work here to make ends meet.”
When he heard that, he was so glad that he had remembered to take that deep breath, and consciously shift his focus. As a veteran himself, the last thing he would have wanted to do was disrespect a military family – or any family trying to get by, for that matter.
I love this story because it’s such a powerful reminder of how we ultimately are the ones that determine the experiences we have in life. It would have been very easy for that man to just let his frustrations get the better of him, and whether he blew up at the cashier and the woman with the baby or not, he certainly wouldn’t have done himself any favors – he would have started his morning off in a bad mood, and it likely would have impacted other interactions he had throughout the day.
But, he took the time to check in, to be present, to see what was true about the situation – or more importantly, what he wanted to be true about the situation. Both perspectives could be accurate – that the woman ahead of him was taking too much time and he had a right to be angry and frustrated, or that even though he wished they were moving faster, it wasn’t the end of the world and it gave him the opportunity to appreciate a happy baby.
The important thing is that the choice of how to react was his – it wasn’t up to anyone else, and it was completely in his control.
Marc and Angel frequently say that our mind is our biggest battlefield, and I couldn’t agree more. But while this is both daunting, because it often seems that our minds have a mind of their own (lol!), it’s also reassuring, because with practice, we can get better and better at choosing our perspective rather than just reacting to situations. It puts us back in the driver’s seat, and it’s hugely powerful.
This is what we focused on at the start of my Make Your Job Better group coaching program a couple of weeks ago – choosing the mindset that moves you forward. It’s one of those things that is so simple, yet can be so hard, and is so important to how we experience our jobs and our work lives. And of course, it carries over to all aspects of our lives.
As we move into the busy holiday season, with all of its potential frustrations and things to react to, I hope this story helps you remember that you always have the power to take a deep breath and choose a different perspective.
To watch a video of Marc telling the story and sharing more about what it means, click here (4 minutes).
When I originally wrote this post, I had hoped that my dog Tucker would be around for another few years, but it was not to be. He was diagnosed with a tumor on his liver in June, and gone by the beginning of August. It was a very smooth and peaceful transition, and even though he’s no longer physically with me, he still feels very present.
I often think about the lessons I learned from watching Tucker over the years. The last month of Tucker’s life brought home even more strongly the second lesson below, of being in the moment. Of course, Tucker wasn’t aware of his “diagnosis,” but even if he had been, I doubt he would have spent much time being upset about it. He would have relished the fact that it meant he could now eat whatever he wanted, for as long as he wanted to eat! As usual, he would have been fully in the present, not worrying about what was to come, but just enjoying what was happening now. That’s a good way to live, and although as a human it’s pretty hard to do that on a regular basis, I think it’s a great thing to aspire to, and I’m grateful to Tucker for reminding me.
I hope you enjoy this the second time around.
Five Life Lessons from Tucker
April 14, 2017
It’s hard to believe, but my baby boy (for those of you who don’t know, that’s my miniature mountain attack poodle, Tucker) just turned 13! He’s doing well, with the exception of a little arthritis, and a good deal of hearing loss. That’s actually a bonus, because if he doesn’t hear the doorbell ring, he doesn’t bark. But he still gets super excited at all sorts of things, runs around like a puppy, chases after his toys, and his appetite is as healthy as ever. I’m hopeful we’ve got quite a few more years together, and I’m reflecting on all that I’ve gained by having Tucker in my life. As I’ve watched him through the years I’ve realized that, like a lot of other dogs, he’s got the right idea about how to go through life. Here are five lessons from Tucker:
- Showing affection – Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that one of the best things about them is the greeting you get whenever you come home. You don’t even have to have been gone that long! But when you come back, they’re right there to greet you (or, in Tucker’s case, when I wake him up to let him know I’m home), wagging not just their tail but literally their whole body, jumping for joy, making “I’m sooooo happy to see you” noises, and of course going to find their favorite toy so they can finish the greeting properly. Maybe we humans don’t need to show affection quite the same way, but it feels really good when someone is happy to see us! A hug or even a smile can have the same warm result. I think we often don’t let people know that we’re happy to see them, because doing so makes us vulnerable. What if they don’t respond in kind? What if they don’t return the hug or the smile? We’re afraid we’ll end up feeling stupid or awkward. But dogs don’t worry about what others might think – they just know they’re happy to see us, and they let it show.
- Being in the moment – Another wonderful thing about dogs is that they spend a lot more time in the present than we do. For example, last year I took Tucker to the vet, and he was so uncooperative that he had to be muzzled. A week later we had to go back, and you’d think he’d be very hesitant. But, no! He was super excited. Why? Because the vet had treats! He wasn’t wasting any energy on the fact that she’d poked and prodded him in the past, and was probably going to do so again. He was just happy to be right where he was, getting treats. We humans, on the other hand, would have been worrying so much about what had happened to us in the past, or what might happen in the future, that we would miss that moment in the middle where we get treats (metaphorically speaking, of course). I think the main point to take away from Tucker is that there’s no good reason to let our worries and fears about something that isn’t happening right now, spoil something that is happening right now. Right?
- Thinking positively – Over the years Tucker has become a horrible beggar. He’s really bad – he sits and stares at whoever has food and whoever he thinks might be most susceptible to his charms. “Aren’t I cute?” his eyes say. “Wouldn’t you like to give me a piece of whatever delightful human food it is you’re eating?” I do my best to discourage him from begging, and my human friends from feeding him, but it works for him enough of the time that he keeps at it. In more than one situation, as I’ve watched him eagerly try to work his magic on an unsuspecting human, I’ve been struck by how optimistic he is. He always seems to believe that eventually, he’ll get what he wants. And enough of the time, he does! While the “power of positive thinking” is almost a cliché these days, I think there’s definitely some truth in it (and Tucker would agree).
- Taking action – Thinking positively is a great step, but it’s not enough. We also have to take action! Tucker doesn’t lie in the other room hoping someone will feed him. He very consciously places himself in the best location (where the people and the food are), sits up as straight as he can, and stares at people as longingly as he can. Lots of times we want things to be different, and we spend a lot of time thinking about it, but we don’t actually do what we need to do for things to change. Tucker doesn’t just dream about what he wants – he makes it happen. And we can, too.
- Staying focused – Along with expecting the best and taking action, Tucker also stays focused on his goals. One Thanksgiving, Tucker took up an attentive position in front of the buffet table. He stared intently at the turkey for at least an hour, until finally someone dropped a piece. Again, he was expecting the best (someone will drop a piece), and he had taken action to increase the odds of that happening (he was lying in front of the table with the food), but most importantly – he didn’t give up. He kept his focus on that bird, and he didn’t let himself get distracted by anything going on, or think that it would have been a lot more comfortable to just go back to his bed. So the next time you’re tempted by email, or Facebook, or any number of other distractions, remember Tucker and his turkey!
There are many more things about Tucker that are worth emulating, and also plenty that aren’t (rolling in disgusting smelly stuff, anyone?). But I’m so grateful for everything Tucker has taught me, and especially grateful for his affection, his presence, his optimism, his action, and his tenacity – and how he reminds me to do the same.
Okay, so I totally stole the title of this Summit Register from a recent post by Seth Godin, which I loved. In fact, here it is in its entirety (emphasis added):
Some things, like your next job, might happen as the direct result of one meeting. Here I am, here’s my resume, okay, you’re hired. But most of the time, that’s not the way it works. You meet someone. You do a small project. You write an article. It leads to another meeting. You do a slightly bigger project for someone else. You make a short film. That leads to a speaking gig. Which leads to a consulting contract. And then you get the gig.
How many hops does the ball take before it lands where you’re hoping it will? If you’re walking around with a quid pro quo mindset, giving only enough to get what you need right now, and walking away from anyone or anything that isn’t the destination—not only are you eliminating all the possible multi-hop options, you’re probably not having as much as fun or contributing as much as you could either.
– Seth Godin
Why do I love this so much? Because it speaks to how wonderful it can be when we don’t worry about how we’re going to get to a goal, but rather open ourselves up to wherever the journey takes us. And the journey can often take us to places that we never even knew were possibilities (and wouldn’t have known, if we’d stuck only to the path we envisioned for ourselves). For example, if you’d told me that I’d end up teaching Japanese, getting a PhD in educational psychology, spending my summers in the Tetons, and starting my own coaching business, I would never have believed it. But, here I am! And it all started with some random hops into things that interested me, like studying abroad in Japan in high school.
“How Many Hops” also made me think about how sometimes we get stuck because we’re quite sure that we a) know all the paths that are open to us, and b) know where those paths will lead. But the reality is, we never know for sure where any path can lead, even if we think we can see it clearly. There are usually bends and alcoves and other paths that only become clear to us once we start walking. And sometimes we can be completely blind to paths that are right in front of us. Have you heard of the visual perception exercise that asks people to count the number of times the players wearing white shirts bounce the ball to each other (as opposed to the players in black shirts)? What happens is that people get so focused on the players in the white shirts, that they literally do not see the person in a gorilla suit walking through the middle, pounding her chest. This same thing can happen to us when we get so focused on the path we’re on that we literally cannot see the other paths that are open to us. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to find someone who can help point them out to us.
We can also spend a lot of time and energy wondering and worrying about which path to take, when we don’t yet have enough information to make an informed decision. Again, often what we need is the encouragement to take that first step down one of the paths. It doesn’t matter which one, but as soon as we start down it, we get information that is hugely valuable and that can help us make an informed decision, instead of just worrying and hesitating. That path might be a dead-end, and that’s fine. At least we know! Or, it might lead to something else we’d never thought of. I worked with a client who was wanting to become a teacher. Through our work together he ended up finding a job at a maker museum, which involved teaching kids how to build things. It was a great combination of many of his skills and experiences (he had a background in construction), and I, for one, hadn’t even heard of a maker museum when we started. But the hops he made led him to it. And that’s the beauty of it – you have to get out there and try things, or you won’t know what works – or where you’ll end up!
All of this seems very appropriate, given that we’re a week past the Easter holiday, with its plethora of Peeps and bunny rabbits and other things that hop, and heading into spring. Here’s to embracing the idea of “multi-hops” in our lives, and seeing where they lead us! And if you or someone you know could use some encouragement, I do hope you’ll reach out!
Some of you may have seen this cartoon since I posted it on Facebook already (on my new business page!). It brings up so many profound truths for me: It’s up to us. Start small. We can create our own reality. Little things matter. Don’t give up. Expectations are everything. Be the change we want to see in the world. It’s always worth nurturing or creating something. Focus on the positive. And on and on.
Of course, it’s not always that easy to just plant flowers (literally or metaphorically). It’s very easy to get paralyzed by thinking that whatever we do it won’t be enough. I know I get caught up in that. I’m only one person, what can I do? Does it really matter? It reminds me of the story about a storm that has stranded thousands of starfish on the beach. There is a child walking along, picking up the starfish, and throwing them back into the sea, knowing they won’t otherwise survive. An adult walking by says, “There’s so many, you’ll hardly make a difference.” The child pauses for a minute, and then says, “But I’ll make a difference to this one.” In some versions of the story, after hearing the child’s response, the adult also starts throwing starfish back into the sea. Other adults start helping, and eventually they are all saved. I especially like that version!
What I take away from the cartoon is how important it is to do whatever we feel called to do to make the world a better place, whether that is planting flowers, or saving starfish, or registering voters, or helping people find jobs that allow them to do things like plant flowers, save starfish, and register voters! And again, that reminder that no act of kindness or creation, or growth or nurturing, is ever too small for those that receive it.
I hope that 2018 is off to a good start in as many ways as possible for you and your loved ones. Here’s to planting flowers wherever we are, so that we shape the world around us into what we most want it to be. As you know, my passion is helping people plant flowers, so to speak, at work – especially when their “workbeds” are barren or full of weeds. Sadly, the number of people who are miserable at work is overwhelming – nearly 70% of American workers are disengaged. If you know someone who could use some seeds planted at their job, please let me know. I would be happy to gift them a Make a Leap Strategy Session so that they can get some things to shift!
My dad, Phil, was a great guy in many ways. He loved us kids and my mom a lot, there’s no doubt. But he was also profoundly unhappy. From him, I learned that when you’re stuck in a job that doesn’t draw on your strengths, that doesn’t allow you to use your gifts, that keeps you unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and miserable – it wreaks havoc on the rest of your life as well. And while it makes me really sad that that is how he spent so many years of his life, I’m at least a little bit grateful for it as well. Because, of him, I’ve made choices that have led me to some amazing things in my life – for work (and work that feels like play).
Seeing what my dad went through, and the effect it had on not only him, but the whole family, is why I’m so passionate about working with people to make their jobs better – life is absolutely too short, and too precious, to waste away days, months, or years of it in a job that makes you – and the people around you – miserable.
That’s why I’m so excited to be able to offer my “How to Make the Job You’re in Better” Group Coaching Program. It starts on Dec 6th, 2017, and as a thank you to all of you, there’s a special rate that is good through Friday, Dec 1st. The Group Coaching Program includes six group sessions, powerful individual activities, and two one-on-one coaching sessions with me. You can find all the information here, as well as ways you can connect with me if you have questions.
I wish there had been someone to help my dad realize there were other things he could have done; that he wasn’t stuck; that he could have made his job better. But it was a different time, and he didn’t have that person. That doesn’t have to be true for you. If you’re feeling trapped and frustrated by your job, or know that you’re meant to be doing so much more, then I hope you’ll consider joining this group. This could also be a really meaningful gift for someone you love, given that the holiday season is coming up.
You can get a taste of what the Group Coaching Program will be like from listening to the audio recording of the “How to Make the Job You’re In Better” virtual workshop I did on Monday (just scroll down to the bottom of the page). We had a great discussion on the 3 C’s of making your job better, and some fun, too! Tucker, the one-of-a-kind mountain attack poodle, even made an entrance.
Here’s to making your job better!
We all spend a LOT of time at work. And unfortunately, many of us don’t get much more out of that time other than a paycheck. But if we’re going to be at work for the majority of our waking hours every day, shouldn’t it be time well spent? I think it should.
Hopefully, you enjoy at least parts of your work. But if you’re feeling dissatisfied or bored, and want to make it more fulfilling, the 3 C’s for making the job you’re in better can help.
First of all, you need to Choose a mindset that will move you forward. Second, it’s important to Clarify what your job involves as well as what you have to give to it. And finally, you can start getting Crafty. Let me explain:
#1 – Choose: No matter what your individual circumstances are, you do have choices related to your job. I’m not saying it’s as simple as snapping your fingers and suddenly finding that you love your job, but your mindset is a huge part of whether or not you someday could. If you don’t choose to believe your job can get better, it probably can’t.
#2 – Clarify: When you’re trying to make your job better, it’s important to know what you’re starting with. For example, what tasks do you need to perform? What are you naturally good at? When you know what your job requires of you and what you have to offer, you can start to see where you and your job do and do not overlap. Then you can figure out where to make the changes that will have the most impact.
#3 – Craft: The final C comes from Job Crafting – a term coined by researchers Jane Dutton and Amy Wresniewski in 2001. You can craft your job in three main areas: tasks, relationships, and cognition. As you craft these aspects of your job to be more in line with your strengths and motivations, you’ll discover more satisfaction and meaning in your work.
To illustrate, there is a hospital custodian who viewed her job as integral to the hospital’s mission of helping sick children get healthy (cognition), spent extra time connecting with patients and their families (relationships), and added tasks that were meaningful, such as asking patients what they needed and finding some way to get it for them (tasks). She crafted her job into work that she loved to do, and through which she could make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Veterans Day is today, and I believe that we honor the sacrifices our servicemen and women have made by making the most of the opportunities they helped provide for us. This includes not spending our work days wishing we were somewhere else. Or even better, crafting our jobs into meaningful work that is both satisfying to us and makes a positive difference in other people’s lives.
In the spirit of back-to-school season, I’d like to share this article I wrote on how to know if it is time to leave your job. Unfortunately, not all the kids I know are excited about going back to school. And just as unfortunately, not all the adults I know are excited about going back to work, either. Even worse, back-to-work season lasts year round for most! While the kids may not have a lot of choice in the matter, we adults actually do – maybe not about whether we work, but certainly about where we work, the kind of work we do, the people we work with, and more. Here are five strategies that can help you get some clarity on whether or not it’s time to change something in your own work situation.
Do you ever wonder if the job you’ve got is as good as it gets, or if there’s something else out there that would be more fulfilling? If so, how would you know what it is? And once you find something, how would you know if it’s worth the risk of leaving the job you’re in?
I often help coaching clients work through these questions. And the short answer is…well, let’s face it. There is no short answer! These are messy, human questions without easy answers. But that doesn’t mean that you need to stay stuck in an unsatisfying job or career. These five strategies can help you get started:
Strategy #1: Have a Vision – Many organizations create vision statements for where they want to go in the future. How about you? Do you have a vision for your future? Having a sense of where you want to go, and who you want to be, can help you make choices that will get you there.
Strategy #2: Know What Matters – Do you know what is most important to you? What really matters to us can get buried under the expectations of family, culture, and the image we’re trying to live up to. But when you’re trying to live a life based on what is important to other people, and not you, it can be very hard to find that satisfying. Getting reconnected with what really matters to you can reap great rewards.
Strategy #3: Look for Alignment – Once you have a better idea of where you’d like to be in the future, and what matters most to you, you can consider whether or not the job you’re in now is in alignment. Is it getting you closer, or further away? Regardless of whether it is or isn’t, you’ll gain valuable information that can help you make decisions about what to do next.
Strategy #4: Craft Your Job – If your job isn’t in alignment with your vision or your values, can you make it a better fit? Our jobs aren’t static, and there are always things we can change, particularly in the areas of tasks, relationships, and our perspective. You may be able to shift your job and/or your attitude so that it becomes a good fit with where you want to go and the things that matter most. And if not, at least you will know that you gave it your best shot.
Strategy #5: Commit to Taking Action – We often spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about things without actually doing anything about them. If it’s not crystal clear to you whether or not you should stay in your job, then start doing what you need to do to figure it out. It’s never too late! As the proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
If this strikes a chord, let me know – my Make a Leap Strategy Session is a great way to explore these questions and ideas further. And it’s my gift!
Happy back-to-school, and hopefully, back-to-work!
I spend my summers working in Grand Teton National Park, as many of you know, and every time I arrive I am struck by how much coming here feels like coming home. The place itself is incredibly special to me, of course – the mountains right outside my window, the small cabin I get to live in on Guides’ Hill, the family history – but more than that, it is the people here that keep me coming back. They are why I rearrange everything else in my life so that I can spend each summer working in the office of Exum Mountain Guides.
And that makes me think just how lucky I am! To have this fabulous community of really interesting and caring people that I get to be a part of every summer. Trust me, climbing guides and the folks who work in the Exum Office are extremely interesting! We laugh that you have to be a certain sort of “weird” to fit in here. But most importantly, everyone here has everyone else’s back. Even though we often disagree. Even though there are lots of different, and valid, opinions about how we should do things, both on and off the mountain. Even though we come from all over the country, have different interests, different levels of experience, and different beliefs – but we all love being in the mountains and being a part of this “family.”
I think that wherever we can find or create communities like this – where people keep coming back year after year, where we usually manage to work out our differences, where we make the effort to be active participants – we should not take them for granted. Our modern society doesn’t exactly lend itself to creating such communities – we can easily go from our home to our car to our work and back again without ever stepping foot outside or interacting with our neighbors. Or we can be surrounded by people, but never talk to them as we’re all focused on our phones.
But we humans do best when we’re part of a community. We are not anti-social creatures, and we need other people to fully be ourselves. I know that coming to Exum every year allows me to grow, and stretch, and deepen my relationships to others and to myself. I’m grateful for that, and that’s a big part of why I put in the effort to come here every summer.
Indeed, at times we have to be very intentional about creating community. I have a coaching client who recently realized that the small town in which she lives is simply not conducive to her meeting the kinds of people she wants to be around – and she just took the leap of putting her house up for sale so that she can move to a bigger city. And my uncle Peter (who introduced me to the Exum community) has reconnected with a wonderful circle of retired climbing guides by moving to Ouray, Colorado for the winter.
Sometimes you do have to be in (or move to) a particular place to find the type of community you’re looking for – and sometimes it’s about making the connections right where you are. Either way, whether you have a strong community or are creating one for yourself, it is worth cherishing.
“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
It’s hard to believe, but my baby boy (for those of you who don’t know, that’s my miniature poodle, Tucker) turned 13 last week! He is doing well, with the exception of a little arthritis, and a good deal of hearing loss. That’s actually a bonus, because if he doesn’t hear the doorbell ring, he doesn’t bark! But he still gets super excited at all sorts of things, runs around like a puppy, chases after his toys, and his appetite is as healthy as ever. I’m hopeful we’ve got quite a few more years together, and I’m reflecting on all that I’ve gained by having him in my life.
Here are five lessons I’ve learned from Tucker that are worth sharing:
#1 – Showing affection: Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that one of the best things about them is the greeting you get when you come home. You don’t even have to have been gone that long! But when you come back, they’re right there to greet you (or, in Tucker’s case, when I wake him up to let him know I’m home), wagging not just their tail but literally their whole body, jumping for joy, making “I’m sooooo happy to see you” noises, and of course going to find their favorite toy so they can finish the greeting properly. Maybe we humans don’t need to show affection quite the same way, but it feels really good when someone is happy to see us! A hug or even a smile can have the same warm result. I think we often don’t let people know that we’re happy to see them, because doing so makes us vulnerable. What if they don’t respond in kind? What if they don’t return the hug or the smile? We’re afraid we’ll end up feeling stupid or awkward. But dogs don’t worry about what others might think – they just know they’re happy to see us, and they let it show.
#2 – Being in the moment: Another wonderful thing about dogs is that they spend a lot more time in the present than we do. For example, a few months ago I took Tucker to the vet, and he was so uncooperative that he had to be muzzled. A week later we had to go back, and you’d think he’d be very hesitant. But, no! He was super excited. Why? Because the vet had treats! He wasn’t wasting any energy on the fact that she’d poked and prodded him in the past, and was probably going to do so again. He was just happy to be right where he was, getting treats. We humans, on the other hand, would have been worrying so much about what had happened to us in the past, or what might happen in the future, that we would miss that moment in the middle where we get treats (metaphorically speaking, of course). I think the main point to take away from Tucker is that there’s no good reason to let our worries and fears about something that isn’t happening right now, spoil something that is happening right now. Right? Here he is sleeping with his toy after a visit to the vet.
#3 – Thinking positively: Over the years Tucker has become a horrible beggar. He’s really bad – he sits and stares at whoever has food and whoever he thinks might be most susceptible to his charms. “Aren’t I cute?” his eyes say. “Wouldn’t you like to give me a piece of whatever delightful human food it is you’re eating?” I do my best to discourage him from begging, and my human friends from feeding him, but it works for him enough of the time that he keeps at it. In more than one situation, as I’ve watched him eagerly try to work his magic on an unsuspecting human, I’ve been struck by how optimistic he is. He always seems to believe that eventually, he’ll get what he wants. And enough of the time, he does! While the “power of positive thinking” is almost a cliché these days, I think there’s definitely some truth in it (and Tucker would agree).
#4 – Taking action: Thinking positively is a great step, but it’s not enough. We also have to take action! Tucker doesn’t lie in the other room hoping someone will feed him. He very consciously places himself in the best location (where the people and the food are), sits up as straight as he can, and stares at people as longingly as he can. Lots of times we want things to be different, and we spend a lot of time thinking about it, but we don’t actually do what we need to do for things to change. Tucker doesn’t just dream about what he wants – he makes it happen. And we can, too.
#5 – Staying focused: Tucker also stays focused on his goals. One Thanksgiving, Tucker took up an attentive position in front of the buffet table. He stared intently at the turkey for at least an hour, until finally someone dropped a piece. Again, he was expecting the best (someone will drop a piece), and he had taken action to increase the odds of that happening (he was lying in front of the table with the food), but most importantly – he didn’t give up. He kept his focus on that bird, and he didn’t let himself get distracted by anything, or go back to lie in his bed where it was more comfortable. Now, when the temptations of modern life try to lure me away from what’s important, or things get challenging, I think of Tucker and his turkey!
There are many more things about Tucker that are worth emulating, and also plenty that aren’t (rolling in disgusting smelly stuff, anyone?). But I’m so grateful for everything Tucker has taught me, and especially grateful for his affection, his presence, his optimism, his action, and his tenacity – and how he reminds me to do the same. If you’d like to bring more of these characteristics into your own life, Tucker wants to you to know that his mom could help! Just go to https://coachingheights.acuityscheduling.com/ to sign up for a free “What Would Tucker Do?” strategy session (okay, really it’s called a “Make a Leap” strategy session, but can’t you just imagine the WWTD bracelets)?
P.S. –While you’re at it, Tucker would also like you to please remind his mom to give him more treats.