#12 - 5 Mindful Lessons Your Dog Would Tell You About Leadership If He Could Talk by Executive Coach Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE at www.MaryLeeGannon.com
1. Don’t take life too seriously. Really. You’re too tense. You carry that black object around all the time, talking into it when you could be playing with me. And if you’re not talking into it, you’re poking at it - or a bigger version of it – like it’s somehow going to spit out a treat as do those machines you put jingly things into near the park that give you food that you don’t share with me, unless of course I play my “look at me being my poor undernourished and deprived self who doesn’t have any friends, never has any fun and who you don’t spend enough time with” routine. By the way, guilt works really well on you - just so you know. Your mother plays that card way better than I do.
I mean that thing you carry around all the time is boring. Really boring. And you don’t even look like you’re having any fun at it so what’s the point? I keep thinking there will be a payoff like when you deliberately hide those treats inside one of my toys and I have to spasm lick forever whereby my tongue ends up in a seizure just to get the taste. But really what is the reward? That black object doesn’t even smell good.
2. Set Mindful Daily Routines. Here’s what I see your routines are – a loud noise comes from an instrument that jolts you to wake up, reminding me of how you accidentally step on me when carrying laundry over me asleep in the doorway. You smack the object to make it stop. (Real peaceful.) You lie back down in bed, playing with that black object again. Tap-----tap-tap-tap. You don’t even see me next to the bed doing my best impression of Lassie. I mean it’s not even light out and the glow of that thing on your face – well if you saw it from my perspective you’d hide that UFO in the laundry basket and never again look at it first thing in the morning. Trust me. Then I have to bark and start doing dog gymnastics toward the door just to get you to take me outside.
Now why not adopt some my routines. Go to bed at an hour where you can awaken naturally the next morning before any funny noise shocks you to attention. Haven’t you noticed me sleeping on the floor all evening while you’re watching that silly large talking box that occasionally shows hungry dogs eating food like they haven’t been fed in a year? Then after a healthy night’s sleep, the first thing you should do is go right outside for a big breath of fresh air before you have to start running the world.
Have you ever watched yourself in the morning? I mean, that intensity at which you do things, one hand buttering toast, the other putting on the sleeve of a jacket, all while talking to the black object. I just want to open the back door and let you out myself. And in case you haven’t noticed, you do not run the world. I do.
3. Take Naps. How do you think dogs get the energy to always be happy to see you? Do you actually think that you were born under a star and sprinkled you with “always wonderful and special forever” fairy dust? Let me break it to you. Not a chance.
We’re really good at self-care. If we’re tired, we sleep. If we’re not tired, we sleep. If we have nothing to do, we sleep. And then we sleep again. Why? Because it’s instinctively healthy and it gives us energy to put up with how you make fools of us with bows in our hair, stupid straps around our necks with metal things that clink when we scratch our ears, and tricks that you make us do for treats just for your entertainment. And by the way, those treats aren’t really that good but we do the tricks anyway because we want you to think you’re in control so you don’t pay too close attention to what we do the rest of the time. You still think a guest ate all that Gruyere at that party you hosted last week don’t you?
Here’s what I see you do when you’re tired. I see you start to yawn. We’re familiar with that sign. I hear you raise your voice to whoever you talk to. I see you drop things. I see you sit down as if almost ready to relax and your eyes start to close but you jostle your head to keep them open, looking even more scary than the black-object-neon-morning face. And I see you neglect me. The face of Lassie. Sitting right here perfectly obedient by your side like the invisible dog who could have chewed your new shoes but didn’t. Who could have bitten your neighbor who throws weeds on your side of the fence but didn’t. (That’s ok I pee in her yard.) Who could get into a fight with that obnoxious Bloodhound but doesn’t and lets you look like the human who runs the world and the dog park. Because with all of your shortcomings, I still think you’re the most amazing human in the world. And if you got more sleep, you’d see it too.
4. Look others in the eye. We go on walks and I see you greet people as we go by but not look at them. I always look at you to see how you look at the people we encounter because that’s how I know if I need to protect you. If you look worried my guard is up. But you don’t even look at people you greet sometimes. It’s weird. It confuses me and I’m not sure what you’re thinking. I always look you in the eye. You always look me in the eye. That’s our own doggie human speak. I feel special because of those looks. I feel you really care about me and makes my whole day. I want to be the best dog possible for you.
5. Ride around town with the window down and the wind in your hair. When is the last time you felt joy? Does that black object bring you joy? I don’t see it. Does the silly large talking box bring you joy? I highly doubt it if it starves dogs. Does that place you go all day bring you joy? Me thinks not because you spend more time there than you do with me yet you come home and open the same bottle of whatever that is that makes you start yawning.
Dogs have a simple joy philosophy. We live only for the moment. We seek the joy in that moment. If danger shows up, we protect ourselves and those we care about, adjust and get away from it, and position ourselves to be ready to deal with it if it surfaces again. Sometimes we show dominance when we feel threatened or sense that you are in danger. That makes us feel safe and a good protector of you. But we don’t have sophisticated brains like you do. We don’t know what else to do but dominate when we’re uncomfortable. Survival is our only instinct when an apparent threat arises. It seems like some of those times when I think there’s a threat there might not REALLY be a threat by the way you tell me “stop barking” or “leave it.” I’m getting better at listening to your cues about what not to worry about. I wish you’d get better at listening to your cues on what’s not worth your worry. I wonder if you did if you’d not be so tired or tense – not expecting threats because you’re too busy licking faces, getting exercise, finding snippets of sun to nap in, playing with other beings you enjoy, and riding around with the wind in your hair.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 19-year corporate CEO who helps leaders have more effective careers, happier lives and better relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Get any of her free publications at www.MaryLeeGannon.com