Your cell phone is dinging with Facebook notifications, the e-mail in your inbox keeps piling up and that laundry you need to do is just sitting in the corner, silently judging you. There are a million and one things competing for your time and attention, and they’re all screaming that they are the most important. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Then your dog comes in with a tennis ball and puts his head in your lap. Suddenly everything comes into focus and you’re pulled right into this moment, here and now. And in that moment, you have a choice: The pile of e-mail and “urgent” Facebook posts? Or a few moments playing fetch in the sunshine? Ironically, those few moments of playing fetch in the sunshine will have you calmer and more focused when you sit down to sort through the pile of e-mail.
Dogs have this amazing ability to live in the present, and they remind us to do the same. They also remind us to define what’s most important in our lives and to commit to following through. Training, working and living with a dog teaches us the importance of clarity, of knowing what our end goal is and sticking with it until we’ve communicated it effectively to our canine partner. Dogs thrive on clarity. The clearer you are about what you want from them, and the more consistent you are in showing it, the better your results are going to be.
With a puppy, or even a dog that hasn’t had a lot of training in the past, there are a million things that you could focus on teaching them. Without prioritizing what is most important during those early stages of learning, you can end up trying to teach everything at once, in quick succession, because you haven’t decided what to focus on. The end result is a very confused puppy that learns only a few of those things not very well.
But if you took the time to decide the top four things you wanted your puppy to learn, and committed to spending a week emphasizing each one, how much faster do you think your puppy would learn? This small amount of focus and clarity improves learning by leaps and bounds.
We aren’t much different. Defining what’s important to you, choosing a few things to focus on and committing to working on them one at a time will get your further, faster than trying to do everything at once. What’s most important to you this month? Pick four things that you value and focus on one each week. Maybe it’s spending time outside with your dog every day, or prioritizing your health by making dinner at home. Maybe it’s reading less e-mail and reading more novels. Or maybe it’s teaching yourself and your dog a new skill. Whatever it is, let’s strive to be like our dogs: focus, committed and present.