All I really need to know for the coming year I learned from my Labrador Retriever. My resolution: To try harder to follow her example. Check out these eight ways to make your life better.
1. Start the day with gusto. My Labrador retriever, Zena, arises with a mission. She’s motivated. First, to motivate me. She stands beside my bed, rests her head on the mattress, eye-level to me and stares piercingly.
She’s always eager to face the outside world, in fact, she charges into it, and returns to dive into her nutritious breakfast with delight. Then she’s ready for a workout to stay physically fit. That’s either a 40-minute-plus walk around sidewalks of the city streets, or through the woods and fields, depending on where we are that day. Most times, it’s a vigorous workout.
2. Focus on a task without your mind wandering to something else. Her singular ability to concentrate her mental and physical energy allows her to achieve a winning performance.
She’s a pro at what she does and gives each project her whole heart and abilities. She’s absorbed with every sinew and nerve. She’s vibrant and alive.
Throw a Frisbee, ball or stick, and she’s off, tearing down the field, knowing instinctively when to pivot, leap, and catch, or diving with abandon into a pond. She swims with the strength and the pure beauty of a canine athlete, as she makes a direct beeline to her goal in record time.
And, as far as I can tell, she doesn’t block out feeling that pure enjoyment these moments offer because other matters distract her. Admittedly, she does have a pre-paid card here since she’s free from worrying or being driven by finances, fitness, and health—she delegates that to me.
3. Stay present. She’s wholly present in the moment with all her being. This comes naturally to her. Her clear attentiveness to what she’s engaged in is not clouded by her future ambitions, or the need to return e-mails, Tweet, or juggle three jobs at once to keep her business prosperous.
4. Value yourself and charge accordingly. Zena doesn’t do anything for free. It may be barter, of course. Nonetheless, she is paid well for her services. There are no pay cuts, layoffs or furloughs in her world. She commands benefits we can all dream of scoring.
Her bosses adore her. She knows this, but doesn’t take it for granted. She has a contract that includes all-expenses paid first-class accommodations wherever she roams, high-quality, nutritious meals, vacations, spa treatments such as massages and pedicures, plus other enviable employer fringes.
5. Look at what goes right. She concentrates on the positive aspects of her job. She doesn’t dwell on the negative, complain or whine about the long hours when she’s parked under my desk while I work, and her talents are not being tapped, or being put to their best use. In a nutshell, she’s optimistic.
6. Push in fresh directions. She always is on the look out for new opportunities. She takes advantage of every walk. Smells and sounds lead her from one new place to another with an openness and fresh sense of excitement. She never fails to gain from social gatherings and networking events with her dog pals. She rarely turns down an invitation to a dinner party at our friends’ houses.
She regularly keeps her skills sharp and adds new ones by attending training classes and workshops with seasoned pros Jack and Wendy Volhard, or participating in an engaging rally class at Mahogany Ridge in Culpeper, VA, with Theresa Richmond.
7. Never hesitate to network more. Just because Zena has a comfy job running our homes and lives, doesn’t mean she stops networking. She’s proactive about her networking efforts –attending events, reaching out to professionals in her field (the aforementioned Volhards and Theresa Richmond) whose work she respects. She continually invites longtime contacts–even those she has known since puppy kindergarten out for walks to reconnect – anything she can do to keep old relationships solid and grab opportunities to build new ones.
8. Go places. Zena knows the importance of travel, of going new places and experiencing new cultures, sights and sounds. Her official job title: Road Manager. We log more than 25,000 miles each year rolling from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA, New Jersey, Warrenton and Boston, Virginia, Lake Keowee in the mountains of South Carolina, and far beyond.
Each time out the door, out of the comfort zone of her fluffy dog bed and safety of her fenced yard, she learns valuable skills–maybe even gets some insights into how to manage me better.
She trots out to the car and pops in without looking back. No questions asked. She props her front feet on the console of my Subaru Outback and stares fixedly out the front windshield as if asking What’s next? Let’s go.
And, “by the way,” she silently commands, “can you roll the window down? I want to pop my nose out, feel the wind on my face, soak up the smells–and use all my senses to enjoy the ride.”
Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon I’m the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons), available here www.kerryhannon.com. Check out my column at AARP. My weekly column at PBS’s NextAvenue.org is here.