Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Don't Have to Wrestle Life to the Ground to Be Successful and Happy

My family and I live with a 100+ lbs. St. Bernard dog named Ella. With a dog this big, you can probably guess that effective training is vital. I find the techniques of the “Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan, quite inspiring and informative. Millan emphasizes the importance of energy when interacting with your canine. Your attitude and expectations can mean the difference between an out of control dog and one who trots happily at your side.

Even though I'm a huge “Dog Whisperer” fan, I still haven't quite got it down. Ella walks calmly beside me as we make our daily treks through our neighborhood-- except when there's a squirrel, cat, another dog, or even a blowing leaf in her field of vision. At that point, all bets are off and the “battle” begins.

Ella appears to me to go into a near-primal state as she ignores my verbal commands and leash tugs in a single-minded desire to get to that other critter-- or blowing leaf. When situations like this arise, my neighbors are treated to the view of me resorting to one of Cesar Millan's techniques-- “the pose--” in which the dog is laid on its side on the floor or ground.

This does not hurt the dog. It is intended to encourage her to shift attention away from the enticing critter and back to me-- the pack leader. It can be a useful tool to help a dog chill out.

Getting Ella in “the pose” when she's in that heightened state, however, usually requires me literally tackle her and wrestle her to the ground. Given her size, it is sometimes the only way to interrupt her wild instinctual mode and re-focus her attention.

How many times do you feel like you have to tackle and wrestle your own life to the ground?

Have you ever felt like the conditions of your life were so out of control or overwhelming that you symbolically tackled and then wrestled them to the ground? This approach to life usually involves tensing up which is certainly understandable, yet almost always not effective at all.

It's as if we believe that the only path to success-- or even a semblance of it-- in this purported dog-eat-dog world is to put life in “the pose,” or at least try to. We meet intensity with intensity whether it's in the workplace, with our families, the economy, the environment, even ourselves.

What you may have already discovered is that when you wrestle life to the ground, it usually doesn't lead to the results you were looking for. A tense and tackling course usually attracts to you more tension and situations in which you feel like you have to tackle life all over again.

Adopt a calm, assertive approach.

A cornerstone of Cesar Millan's philosophy is to meet dogs with calm assertive energy. When Cesar puts a dog in “the pose,” he is not angry or even frustrated. Instead, he calmly re-directs the dog while holding the expectation that his leadership will be respected and he will be listened to. As you might have guessed, when I put Ella in “the pose,” I am usually most definitely not in a calm assertive place.

This is why it feels like tackling and wrestling!

Step back and get into the habit of noticing when your life starts to feel like one big wrestling match. If you're exhausted and drained much of the time, that's a tip-off. Your next step might be to learn how to relax when you begin to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Meditation and deep breathing are two tools you could use to release tension and open to more ease.

Ask yourself what kind of life you want to lead. Sometimes we hold onto hidden expectations and beliefs that contribute to our life-wrestling tendencies. Remember that no matter how out of control your life feels, YOU are in charge of your response to it as well as the direction in which you point yourself.


  1. "A tense and tackling course usually attracts to you more tension and situations in which you feel like you have to tackle life all over again."

    Exactly! I sometimes hear the fighting thoughts. Lately, I've begun to respond to them with, "It doesn't have to be that way. Let's wait and see what happens."

  2. So, you wrote this post just for me, right?

    Seriously. I needed this. My life is so out of control right now. Thanks.