As business professors we have the opportunity of working with talented professionals in different organizations. In our conversations it is not uncommon for employees and managers to share personal and professional struggles in maintaining life balance. These individuals report that they are spread so thin that they are losing touch with their personal priorities, families, health and spiritual lives. If this sounds familiar, perhaps it would help to reconsider how you are approaching your life balance. If our dogs could talk, here are five tips they would share for living a life that is in balance.
1. Know your purpose. The American humorist Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Dogs seem to understand that their main purpose in life is to be our best friend. Are you clear about what your purpose is in life? In our book, The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven secrets for a better life from man’s best friend, we state that to live a life of purpose is to be able to answer three questions:
• Am I following my heart and being true to myself?
• Is my life focused on things that really matter to me?
• Am I being the person I want to be in the world?
2. Live in the moment. Most people live their lives thinking about the past or future and miss out on being fully present. We are bombarded by messages that encourage us to dwell on what we have done wrong in the past, how inadequate we are in the present (fashion, weight, sexual attractiveness, wealth, etc.), or to worry ourselves sick about what may or may not happen in the future. Dogs live in the moment. When they are with you, they are with you! Dogs are the best model for the saying, ‘yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, and that is why it is called the present.’
3. Give more than you take. Dogs give us their love and attention and they ask very little in return. Humans on the other hand, easily fall into the trap of viewing the world around us as a limited set of resources and opportunities. Our thinking seems to be, “If I give more to you, then there is less for me.” Dogs know that you can share all the love, forgiveness, and positive feelings you want and still have more to give.
4. Live life fully. When Garry takes his dog, Panda, for a walk, Panda takes an interest in every rock, twig, leaf, tree, person, and dog they meet. Can’t you remember when you were a child and looked forward to new and exciting experiences and you did not mind being having fun and being silly? How can your reconnect with your inner puppy and rediscover your inner sense of play and adventure?
5. Enjoy Life Now! Humans tend to think if we spend all our time working now, at some point in the future we will slow down to enjoy life. Very few elderly people would say this approach makes sense. For example, author Leo Buscaglia describes a letter by an 85-year old man who wrote, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I wouldn’t try to be so perfect. I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip. I’d ride more merry-go-rounds, I’d watch more sunrises and play with more children– if I had my life to live over again. But you see, I don’t.” The message is clear; watch sunsets now. Enjoy your family now. Develop your ‘bucket list’ and start scratching off your accomplishments now.
Dogs understand you only have so much time on Earth and it is up to you to live a life that is balanced. Understanding your purpose, living for the moment, giving more than you take, living life fully, and living life in the now are not trivial guidelines; they give meaning to our lives, our family, and our colleagues at work. Learn from your dog and make time to rest, to play, to explore, to lay in the sunshine, to scratch, and give time to those you love. That’s life-balance.
Written by Garry McDaniel & Sharon Massen
Garry McDaniel and Sharon Massen speak nationally on what individuals and organizations can learn from dogs about leadership, team building, and customer service. Their book The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven Secrets for a Better Life from Man’s Best Friend, is available now.