It is quiet now, but earlier our living room echoed with the howls of a lonely Siberian night.
You see, we recently invited the patter of little dew claws into our life by adopting a rescue dog. After a few weeks of getting-to-know-you and DNA results, we discovered that while our mutt got her looks from a great-grandparent golden retriever, the double helixes guiding her behaviour belong to a breed of arctic sled dog. After thousands of years of selective breeding, teaching her not to pull on the lead looked like an uphill battle through the snow.
This was also just one strand of a larger, more complex commitment – the extent of which we could not have anticipated in advance, but were now tugged by the heartstrings to embrace in full: project dog.
We got busy and defined our outcome: “Violet settled into the family well.” This meant finding answers to a flurry of questions: How do we get her to stop chasing the cat? Will she ever stop being spooked by a tennis ball? How will we get her to the vet if she’s terrified of cars? Now that she has accepted us as her own, how can we stop her “protecting” us from our own guests?
The over-arching question was: how do we set clear boundaries for ourselves and guide her behaviour while continuing to gain and retain her trust?
I came to realise that the only way this was going to happen was if I could trust myself – to nurture this new, upending, long-term project without losing sight of other supportive and necessary parts of my life. So, in addition to a clear outcome, I got busy with a special kind of Weekly Review® – one I call a “renegotiation review”.
In it, I decided to move a number of outcomes from my project list to my ‘someday/maybe’ list – where still-good ideas go that are no longer active commitments. Suddenly there was room to spend the extra time harnessing her up for our morning cross-country runs, or encouraging her into the back seat of the car with treats and praise.
Furthermore, staking down the moving parts of this project – an agenda list for our trainer, gear to research online, and diarised dog walkers to help take up some slack – helped me realise that while habit change takes time (for all of us), we are doing our part to make it happen, giving appropriate attention to our own needs as well as those of our much-loved pooch.
Finally, seeing this one pet project in context with so many other interesting and fulfilling outcomes that are active in my life brought a sense of balance back to what had become a somewhat dogged focus. It was one important and wonderful project – but it was just that.
How about you? Are you ready for that next lifestyle-upending change or challenge, knowing you can adapt as needed to make it all work?
Our dog will never know that I practice the GTD® methodology. But when I am able to be relaxed and present, supporting her needs while not losing sight of my own, that gives us both something to smile about.
Hers, of course, is a breed adaptation to prevent icicles forming in the corners of her mouth.