What My Dog Taught Me About Limiting Beliefs

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.

Outer Limits.  What my Dog Taought me about 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.

Outer Limits. What My Dog Taught Me About Limiting Beliefs

This past week, my husband and I had quite the scare.  Our beloved, happy go lucky dog, Baci, was suddenly missing.    Out of the blue, we both turned to each other on Saturday morning and said “Where’s Baci?”  Well, she must be outside we thought. My husband 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 both of us were 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 the dog being walked defending her new found territory.  What in the world?  How did that happen?  My husband carried her home.  We have a wireless containment system that involves a dog collar and base until.    When Baci gets out about 100 feet from the base unit, she receives a warning beep and then a slight shock.  We’ve had the system almost as long as Baci (about 6 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. 

Outer Limits. What My Dog Taught Me About Limiting Beliefs
My dog, Baci, relaxing on her dog house porch.

This is what she taught me.

1. 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.

2. Environment.  The day that we 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.   So with a blanket of white snow, her perspective and our perspectives, where different.  The snow was covering the usual “barriers”.  Perhaps the root (her imagined border) she would never cross or a fallen branch.  A change in environment can change the way you see the world.  Change your office, re-org your books, change the wallpaper on your PC.  The barriers will disappear.

3. 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.

4. Explore. When my husband and I look back, we are wondering how long the invisible fence system was down.  When we 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 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.  Key West, Smokey Mountains 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 for the next snow or for retirement or for the lottery…test your limiting beliefs.  See how exciting and rejuvenating it can be.

Drink the Optimism Kool-Aid

Having a positive outlook can change everything.  If you think you can succeed, finish the race, or complete the project, you will.  If there are a few hiccups along the way, well, that may be what the universe intended.

You probably think that I am being a Pollyanna (for those under 40 and don’t know who Pollyanna is click here) Which is exactly what I’m suggesting you do—be optimistic.  It makes a difference in how you face life; in how you recover from setbacks; in how you lead. In Srinivasan Pillay‘s book Your Brain and Business, he shows why leaders need to be drinking the optimism Kool-Aid.  Dr. Pillay writes, “When you have hope and optimism, you have an automatic way of replacing fear in the line of emotions asking for attention from the amygdala.” Basically, if you dwell on the fear and negativity of the situation, your amygdala goes nuts and shuts down rational and reasonable thoughts.  So if you don’t want to fire up your amygdala (your lizard brain), look on the bright side.  Don’t worry about the “how” and all the obstacles in your way, just have belief that you can succeed and you can lead everyone else (and their lizard brains) out of the fire. See what I mean?  It’s a game changer. optimistic

At my Rotary club every week we have a 50/50 raffle.  There is one guy who wins it on a regular basis.  He knows he’s lucky.  He’s optimistic.  He wins. There are times when he doesn’t win, but he wins a lot more often than anyone else.  Certainly more than anyone who thinks they are unlucky.  They aren’t even putting a dollar in.  They don’t think they have a chance.

OK.  So here is how you can drink the optimism Kool Aid:

1. Suspend. As in, suspend your negative thoughts.  Don’t go listing all the ways why this won’t work.  That is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You will be correct.  There is absolutely no possibility of succeeding if you think you can’t.  You do not pass “Go” and collect $200.  You will be stuck.

2. Pause.  When adversity comes along (and it will), take a breath and disconnect from your present situation.  Unplug and regroup.  Your reaction under pressure is only feeding your lizard brain.  Don’t let the amygdala go nuts and set off all the firecrackers.  Have a Zen moment and disconnect.  The last thing you need to feed when you are under pressure is your lizard brain.  Chill out.

3. Discerning.  Now is the time to pick the thoughts that go reeling through your head.  Something negative comes along like, “This will NEVER work,” or “Here we go again.” Or worst of all, “You dummy…you always fail at this stuff.”  Stay off the merry-go-round of negative thoughts and pick the right time to select your thought.  Is there something good that could possibly happen?  That is the thought you want.  Wait for it.  It’ll show up, especially if you’ve already done #2.

4. Explore.  There must be something good about the current situation.  The sun is out.  It’s finally raining.  It’s finally summer.  It’s finally winter.  There is a bright side to everything.  Just find the right context.  There is a roof over your head.  Your car started this morning.  You finished high school.  You woke up this morning and still have a pulse.  There is good out there—just go do some exploring.

5. Digest.  Dwell and ruminate on those positive thoughts and outcomes.  Make it real and believe in it.  The board will accept the idea.  Your car can be fixed for less than $100.  The next big client is going to call tomorrow.  The sun will come up tomorrow.  Digest the positive and dwell on it.

I’ve said this in other posts but I’m still working on this and many other positive habits. Practice makes perfect.  Start working on your optimist. It doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us and if it does come naturally to you, share the optimism Kool-Aid with others.

How do you stay optimistic?