Join Our Community

Which Dog Are You?

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Which Dog Are You?

Chasing the bones of contentment.
Michael  Neill
Michael Neill More by this author
May 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

My two dogs, Mishka and Abby, have very different personalities. Mishka is bored unless engaged in her favorite game, which, as you might imagine for a dog, is “fetch.” You take her bone and throw it as far as you can, and she chases it as fast as she can. Then she brings it back to you and asks (well, begs) you to throw it again. She wants to play fetch continually, and I’ve occasionally speculated that if I let her, she would keep chasing that bone right up to the point where she collapsed of physical exhaustion.

I call Mishka a “goal dog,” because her behavior is similar to what I see in compulsive goal setters. They continually set goals in every area of their lives, driving themselves forward relentlessly toward the ever-receding goal of “making it.” They rarely stop to consider what they would do if they did make it, and those who do succeed (at least by society’s standards) often find themselves bored and empty until they throw themselves back into the fray.

Essentially, compulsive goal setting is like playing a game of Fetch with yourself—you throw the bones as far as you can (set the biggest goals you can imagine), and then chase after them with hyper-focused attention and continual action. The problem comes when your happiness and self-worth are the bones.

For most compulsive goal setters, their sense of well-being comes from how well they think they’re doing. And since they’re constantly raising the bar on what “success” and “making it” mean, they’re never doing well enough to feel happy and worthwhile. There’s always more action to be taken and more targets to be reached, so there’s never a sense of being content right where they are now. And, I occasionally speculate, if they let themselves, they’d keep chasing those goals right up to the point where they collapsed of physical exhaustion.

My other dog, Abby, is more of what I call a “river dog.” I call her this based on the writing of supercoach Earl Nightingale (founder of Nightingale-Conant), who described “river people” as being those who “are happiest and most alive when they’re in the river—in whatever business or career or profession it happens to be. And success comes to such people as inevitably as a sunrise. In fact, they are successes the moment they find their great field of interest; the worldly trappings of success will always come in time.”

Abby loves the park, and she loves the house. She loves going for a run with my son, but she seems equally happy and content to hang out on the sofa with our cat. In fact, wherever Abby is, she throws herself into the mix without ever seeming to need things to be a certain way.

Bizarrely, the one game Abby will almost never play is Fetch. You can throw her bone as often as you like, but unless you go and get it yourself, it will never be seen again.

When it comes to us human beings, I think of these two approaches to life as being less about personality types than behavioral choices. In any given moment, we can decide that what we have isn’t enough and look around for something to fill in the gaps, or we can decide that what we have is exactly what we want. We can turn our “bone of happiness” into a bone of contention and throw it off into some imaginary future, or we can enjoy gnawing on it right here, right now.

About Author
Michael  Neill
Michael Neill is an internationally renowned transformative coach and the best-selling author of five books including The Inside-Out Revolution and Continue reading