“Wait for the girl who looks at you with those same eyes.”
I said it without even thinking. I was just responding with humor as best I could to the waiter saying how sweet my dog was. It was a sentiment straight from the heart, unprepared and unrehearsed.
So what is it about Rocco’s eyes? What is it about the way a dog looks at us that we know this is love? How is it not dependence? Without me he doesn’t eat. How is it not approval seeking? Praise seeking? Attention seeking? Validation seeking?
It’s something I didn’t fully understand from interacting with dogs until I owned one. Rocco just wants my time. Dogs are eternally present. They don’t contemplate the past, the future or their existence. They live straight from the heart, trusting their instincts.
Sure, you can train a dog, but that just changes the pattern of neurological activity dictating their instinctual behavior. The instinctual response changes and we say they have learned. With dedicated effort a human can also neurologically rewire their instinctual responses, but the difference is a human can know and consider this. The dog is just doing whatever behavior is wired, without thought about it. It just happens.
I’m grateful that Rocco doesn’t beg for food from the table, but even if he did, he wouldn’t be using his cute eyes to manipulate me into feeding him. A dog learns to do the behavior that is re-enforced. When a dog begs for food, he doesn’t make a conscious decision about it. It’s just honest. He is who he is and he learned what he learned.
So when a dog gives love, this is the same. A dogs love is by nature without condition. A dog lacks the human capacity for thought which would allow for a condition to be knowingly attached to his behavior. One of the biggest roadblocks to a real connection in human relationships are the conditions we place upon our love. If you do this, if you don’t do this, if you look this way, if you treat me this way, if you believe this, if you say that, ect ect. Unconditional love is so far above any other kind of love, that it is hard to say that any form of love given with condition is love at all.
Even if we inform some of the dogs influences at the onset, by rewarding him with attention when he comes to us, or with cuddles, food or playtime when he takes certain actions, he’s still not capable of knowingly doing these things to get the desired response. A dog is just being himself. So while we might knowingly or unknowingly train a dog for certain behaviors, that dog is teaching us every day of our lives what real love looks like. He’s showing how to be present, to live from our instincts, and to follow our heart. He shows us what it’s like to turn off our brain and just be.
One of my closest friends told me before I got Rocco that in Brazil they say “Humans need dogs, because dogs teach humans how to love.” At the time this didn’t make sense to me, but now it makes all the sense in the world. I also understand the phrase “Dogs are the gateway drug to children.” It feels good to give and receive unconditional love, and humans aren’t above conditioned pleasure seeking responses either 😉
Motives matter. Behind every action a person takes there is a motivation, a mental reasoning, a why. As a society we know this is important, because when we delegate punishments for crimes such as murder, we look at a premeditated killing orchestrated in cold blood as far more heinous than a crime of passion. Manslaughter is an even lesser charge, but in all cases one person killed another, but the why is important to us.
While we are often quick to analyze and judge what we perceive the motives of others to be, it can be easy to go through life without giving a second thought to our own motives. As long as we are doing what we think we should be doing, we’re in the clear right? Wrong. The story we tell ourselves about the actions we take can have a profound impact not only on our success in our course of action, but our overall state of wellness removed from that action.
The example I discuss in today’s video blog is about the motivation that gets us off our ass and into the gym, but these principles can be applied to anything from the way we look at our work or business to the way we search for and select romantic partners. We are always acting to meet a need, and often the need is to distance ourselves from a source of pain.
Generally humans move away from pain and toward pleasure, makes sense right? But our instinct to avoid pain often displays itself much more strongly than our drive toward pleasure. This is most obvious in situations where we try so hard to eliminate short term pain that we take actions which diminish our capacity for long term pleasure. We can’t hand our pain so we seek instant gratification.
In both cases we take action to avoid immediate pain without considering how far from what we truly desire that this path might be taking us.
I decided to break down the motive hierarchy behind exercise in today’s video, but similar work could be done for relationships, business, or any activity. This may not apply to everyone and if you have always been at stage four, well you fucking rock! But for those of us caught up on stages 1-3, knowing the progression can help us to break through.
1) Self loathing and/or Rock Bottom “I work out because I hate my body.” “I work out to escape depression.” “I work out to distract myself from my unacceptable career, partner or other aspect of my life situation.” “I work out because my health situation could kill me.”
2) Fear of Self loathing and/or Rock Bottom “I work out because I am scared to be that person again who was… fat/depressed/too weak to change/unconfident or literally dying.”
3) Desire for self love “I work out because I want to be… fit/sexy/happy/confident/mobile/active.”
4) Self love “I work out because I am fit/sexy/happy/confident mobile/active. I am motherfucking grateful and I respect myself!!”
Notice that none of this touches on “I work out because I enjoy it.” Everyone has physical activities they enjoy and ones they don’t enjoy. But for many people this is not the primary motivation behind an active lifestyle. Yes, some people do love a sport, and they simply engage it in for the pure joy of it. It’s very likely that the joy comes from the needs the activity meets for the person. Many activities do just have their own inherent joy, and what those activities are will vary person to person.
The issue here is if we are not aware of our motivations, it can negatively impact our prolonged success and overall happiness. This can happen when our physical transformation and our mental acclimation are not in sync. We may have changed our body, gotten out of the danger zone, but we’re still not happy with ourselves. If we were happy with ourselves, we’d lose our motivation.
If we only know how to push ourselves out of hatred and fear then our new way of living won’t be both enjoyable AND sustainable. We need to learn how to lovingly motivate ourselves. Hating yourself or living in fear is no way to go through life, and falling on and off the same horse is a really aggravating cycle.
If we want to live the life we dream, it has to be sustainable and enjoyable. Likely it’s already enjoyable or it wouldn’t be our dream, but how to we make it last? Well it can’t last out of to motivation that comes from deep dissatisfaction. How could we be both happy and deeply dissatisfied? We can’t. But if we are satisfied, how do we keep going?
It’s simple really, we understand that life is a never-ending learning and growing process. We free our self from the notion that we are going to arrive at our goal, instead we make our goal the sustainable pursuit of moving more and more into alignment with our best self. We pursue greatness, and know that we are already great for doing so.
There’s a quote that says “Always be happy, never be satisfied.” I say fuck that. I say “Be happy, be satisfied, but keep fucking going!!” If you always need to revert to dissatisfaction to get motivated to do what makes for a happy life, then surprise surprise, that’s exactly what you will do.
Break the cycle. If you’re in desperation mode, if you have serious physical or mental risks associated with staying in your present situation, it’s totally fine to use that dire motivation to improve. There is nothing wrong with stage one, most of us have been there, and more than once.
It’s that more than once that sucks. By recognizing this pattern and understanding it, by seeing how it may have prevailed in our own life, we can eliminate the need to repeat the steps that take place in an unhappy period of our lives and we can work and aspire toward living in a beautiful state every day of our lives.
Peace, love and understanding. Give it to others, but most importantly give it to yourself.