This past week I had quite the scare. My beloved, happy-go-lucky dog Baci was suddenly missing. Out of the blue, I looked around on Saturday morning and wondered, “Where’s Baci?” She must be outside, I thought. I checked the usual spots (dog house, garage, under the deck, tree #1, tree #2, tree #3….you get the picture) but to no avail. Then I was outside looking down the road and into presumably the uncharted territories of the neighbors’ yards and the road. By happenstance, a neighbor was down the road about 100 yards away walking her dog and I heard a familiar bark. Aha!
There she was, two doors down, barking her head off at another dog being walked, defending her new found territory. What in the world? How did that happen? I carried her home. I have a wireless containment system that involves a dog collar and base unit. When Baci gets out about 100 feet from the base unit, she receives a warning beep and then a slight shock. I’ve had the system almost as long as Baci (about 8 years) and she definitely knows her territory. The base unit was broken. For how long? Who knows. At some point, she started testing her outer limits–her limiting beliefs.
This is what she taught me:
- Routine. Baci always has the same routine. The “usual spots” in the yard that she investigates every time she is outside. Heck, she has the same routines inside the house. The same windows she sidles up to peer out. The same tap, tap, tap, tap across the wood floor. We’ve all got the same routines. Brush your upper right teeth before the left. Wash your hair before your face. Check your phone and then pour coffee. At some point, Baci changed her routine to head into the outer limits. If you want to change things up, you are going to need to change up your routine.
- Environment. The day that I found Baci -AWOL, there was a blanket of snow on the ground. This is a drastic change in environment when you live in Eastern North Carolina. This was not the usual fare. With a blanket of white snow, her perspective and our perspectives were different. The snow was covering her usual “barriers”. Perhaps her imagined border had been the roots she would never cross or a fallen branch. A change in environment can change the way you see the world. Change your office, re-organize your books, or change the wallpaper on your PC. The barriers will disappear.
- Test. At some point, she tested the limit. Probably by accident at first, but she went a little farther than she had before. And then a little farther. And then a little more. She inched her way to new territory and was no worse for wear. Test your limits. Write an intro to a book. Sign up for that art course you’ve always wanted to take. Open a new PowerPoint template and make a few slides. Test your outer limits. And then go a little farther. And then a little more.
- Explore. When I look back, I was wondering how long the invisible fence system was down. When I reflect back, I can remember seeing Baci in places that had previously been off limits. Or I would look everywhere for her, give up and go inside, and suddenly she would be at the back door trying to get in. It.Could.Have.Been.Months. Wow. She was out there exploring. Finding new cats, tennis balls and squirrels (probably the same squirrels, just finding them around a new tree). She always came home. She knew where home base was. Go explore. What’s on your bucket list? Check a few off. Barcelona, Copenhagen and Alaska are on mine. Go explore some new trees.
I’m not suggesting we all let our pets run wild. But I do feel conflicted about restoring Baci to her home territory. How exciting for her to test her limiting beliefs and break beyond her usual outer limits. Don’t wait around for the next snow, the lottery, or your own retirement…test your limiting beliefs. See how exciting and rejuvenating it can be.