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4 Important Lessons Your Dog Teaches You

4 Important Lessons Your Dog Teaches You

He came as a 3 week old ball of fur that could fit into the palm of my hand. Close to near starvation, he still prioritized wagging his tail for me over finding some food for himself. It was love at first sight, if you don’t believe in love at first sight, get a dog. I had him for 12 years. That meant hundreds of chewed up shoes thrown away, bagfuls of dog hair coated clothes discarded, buckets of dog poop scooped up, daily barking sprees suffered and an entire childhood spent smelling like, well, a dog.

It’s a big responsibility and a huge pain, no amount of puppy eyes can sugar coat that fact of life. Another grudging fact of life is that somewhere in between the poop scooping and mindless barking, they change you. They mend your heart and grow your mind. They make you believe in the goodness of life and the beauty of the world. Heck, they even give you faith. All those lofty ideas that we roll our eyes at, they make them a reality. They sit there grossly licking themselves, and all the while, your world changes.

My dog was the best living being I ever knew. Here are a few things he taught me, a few things that these dirty furry creatures unknowingly teach their families (Yes, that’s a ‘he’, not an ‘it’, they are people, and they are better than most people).

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1. They teach you forgiveness

You forget to feed them, they lick you. You forget to walk them, they lick you. You may not have a single second for them the entire day but at the first tired glance you accidentally give them, they lick you. Imagine getting that kind of complete forgiveness and acceptance every single day.

Imagine living with the absolute certainty that no matter what you do and who you become, there is always this little ‘creature-person’ who will accept you with a thumping tail and happy barks (also unfortunately a very wet gross tongue that manages to find your nose every single time). When you get that kind of acceptance, you begin to give it as well. Just a little bit though, we are after all mere humans, can’t compete with a dog.

2. They teach you love, crazy real fearless love

They love you like that. This is a dog’s logic – she played with me, so now, when required, I will die for her. The most ridiculous thought process ever, the most amazing way to love ever. They teach you how to let your guards down and love someone with all you’ve  got. Without fear, without conditions and with complete vulnerability.

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It’s not just how they love you, but also how you end up loving them. When you have a dog you know he will probably go before you, in fact you hope that he does, so that he always has you to take care of him. But then, you end up loving someone with your full heart, knowing full well that they will pass away before you. You open yourself to love with the knowledge that it will hurt one day. That’s the kind of love this world needs, that kind of strong, unconditional, courageous love. A dog teaches you that.

3. They make you less cynical

It’s a complicated world, demanding and selfish, difficult to remain childlike and optimistic. Not so much if you have an irritating four legged friend whose only aim in life is to make you throw the ball. Every morning when you have a hundred things on your to do list the only thing on their to do list is ‘wag tail, lick this guy’. Every night when you are dead tired and completely frustrated with the boss, they just cluelessly prance about doing their happy little dance because you are back home.

I dare you to stay cynical in the face of that! Just try to behave like an adult while playing tug of war with a dog; you will be 5 years old in less than 5 seconds. Their innocence and pointless happiness is contagious. Their undying optimism that any second someone will play with them teaches you how to hope, how to stop being negative and just smile. Just throw the ball and smile.

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4. They make you strong

He got old and quietly passed away one night. The next day we buried him and I went to work. I didn’t mention it to most people for fear that they wouldn’t really understand my pain. It was just a dog. Just a dog, but even in his passing he made me stronger. Facing his absence prepared me to face life better. If you have been through that, you can go through a lot.

People tell me they don’t want to keep a dog because they don’t want to go through the pain of loss. It’s not pain, its strength. It’s not loss; it’s the gain of priceless memories. It’s not a tragedy you go through, it’s just life and it makes you grow up. Let a child love and lose a pet, the adult would be an infinitely stronger and better human being.

As a child I remember being asked what I want to be when I grow up. My answer was ‘a dog’. It sounded really stupid and I got quite a few laughs. It still sounds really stupid, I’l give you that, but it’s still true. Call me crazy, but if we could have one tenth the good qualities of those perpetual ‘tail waggers’ and chronic ‘face lickers’, this world would be a happier, safer place.

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So next time you see a homeless tail wagging at you, think about it, really think about bringing him home. It makes home more home, it makes us more human.

Featured photo credit: janetroper.com via janetroper.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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