Six months ago my husband and I adopted a one-year-old goldendoodle from our local Humane Society. He came with the name “Maverick,” a fitting moniker for this untamed beast who now resides in our home.
Maverick has brought incredible joy to our lives, but he’s also challenged us in all kinds of new ways. His adorable face and playful personality make up for some of his less desirable traits. He’s an incredibly anxious guy, so when we head outside into the big, scary world he can have a really hard time keeping his cool. The people in our building/neighborhood might think that last sentence is a bit of an understatement.
Many of the lessons we’ve learned from our first six months with Maverick have applications in all different aspects of life, so I thought I’d share three of those that have stuck with me.
If you want to succeed, be willing to adjust your communication style.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest person in the room (organization, team, family…) or if you are without a doubt, 100% right about something: if you can’t communicate your viewpoint in a way that can be heard by – and resonate with – others, then you might as well call it quits.
With Maverick, we know that when he sees another dog down the street there’s nothing to worry about and no need for him to bark, lunge, or bolt. But just because we know that and we are right doesn’t mean we can just calmly and rationally explain that to him. He needs us to speak his language – with our bodies, our tone, the tension (or lack thereof) on the leash, and most importantly… with treats! Unless we meet him where he is, and adjust our communication style to suit his needs, we aren’t going to get anywhere – and he’s not going to start feeling better either.
It sounds obvious, but recently I’ve been reminded of just how often our desire to be right or do things our own way prevents constructive conversations and successful outcomes. At work, it’s clear when there’s a disconnect between two people who are aiming for the same goal but can’t seem to agree on anything. Or at home when we start to get frustrated with a family member and keep saying the same thing over and over but they just don’t seem to listen.
When we find ourselves in these situations, we ultimately have two choices: continue on as we have been in hopes that the other party will see things our way, or recognize what it is the other party needs from us and adjust our communication approach so that we can listen, be heard, and come to a mutual resolution. Waiting for the other party to get on board with our approach may meet the desires of our ego, but it’s not likely to get us closer to the ultimate goal we’re working towards.
Who in your life might you benefit from adjusting your communication style with? Every conversation is an opportunity to help others feel heard and feel good about our interaction – even when we may disagree. Why not seize that opportunity? It is much more likely to yield a better resolution for everyone.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
This is a popular phrase around my office. It’s tough to know our own blind spots because… well… they’re blind spots. When we’re unaware, we’re vulnerable – we don’t have the ability to build a weakness into a strength when we don’t even know it exists. Unless we are humble enough to ask about, learn, and remain open to what we don’t yet know, we won’t ever have the opportunity to grow. We also remain all too susceptible to missed opportunities or unexpected catastrophes.
Maverick has done a good job of reminding me that this saying isn’t just metaphorical.
I did not know what I did not know. I had no idea that there are roughly 500 free-range chicken bones strewn about our neighborhood at any given time. Chicken bones just waiting to be sniffed out and eaten up by my dog. Chicken bones which – according to Google – could potentially kill said dog in one of countless, painful ways on their journey down his gullet and back out into the light of day.
I did not know that other lifeless creatures are everywhere, just waiting to be detected by Maverick’s sensitive snout. You name it; I’ve pulled it out of his clenched, salivating mouth. Dead mouse? Check! Pigeon claw? Check! Waterlogged, road-killed rat carcass? Check! Yeah, that last one was as bad as it sounds.
It turns out there was a lot I didn’t know. And as that old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me five or more times, you better recognize what you don’t know and change your strategy!”
Once I was finally aware of and open to what I don’t know (I don’t know where the “street snacks” will be, but Maverick always will) I could start working on a strategy to prevent this lack of knowledge from being my downfall. Thanks to adjusted walking routes, a new head collar, and slow progress on the “leave it!” command, my number of jaw-prying incidents have dropped dramatically.
What might your blind spots be? Can you think of ways to be proactive and open enough to identify what you don’t know so you can turn your blind spot into an opportunity for growth? It’s not too late if you learn about a blind spot the hard way – take the reins and seize this chance to learn and make positive change.
Patience isn’t just a virtue – it will keep you happy!
Often when we hear about patience it’s because someone is reciting that old adage, “patience is a virtue” (and usually they’re doing it at the most annoying time). But what I’ve learned from Maverick is that in being patient with him, we’re making our own lives much better too.
Maverick’s got a fairly long road of continued training ahead of him to build up the skills he needs to function better in the “real world” (aka anywhere outside of our apartment unit). Yes, it’s beneficial to him that we practice patience so we continue to treat him with the care and consideration he needs – perhaps that’s virtuous of us to do. But we also improve our own lives greatly by practicing patience.
Only through patience can we set realistic goals for him to achieve… relax even when it feels like progress is slow… allow his training the time it needs to bring about lasting change… and continue to be happy, calm and optimistic ourselves even though there are still challenges before us.
By practicing patience we improve our own quality of life and allow ourselves, and others, the time it takes to truly bring about change. In a day and age where we are often hooked on short-term goals and quick fixes, it’s easy to see patience as almost a hindrance to what we want to achieve. If we want it bad enough, we should just go all out and make it happen now!
But deep down we all know that things worth having take time. And Maverick has reminded me that by remaining patient, not only are we more likely to achieve the goals we have for ourselves and others, but we’ll remain much happier in the meantime.
Is there someone in your life (yourself included) that you could practice more patience with? What do you risk by not being patient with them? How might being impatient impede your quality of life now, and the likelihood of long-term success in the future?
I hope some of these lessons from Maverick resonate with you, too. His antics continue to amuse, challenge, and inspire us as he works his way deeper into our hearts – it doesn’t hurt that he’s a great snuggle buddy!