Written by Bryan Finck, a Pixel Fund board member.
Depending on which poll you look at, 50 to 75 percent of US homes have at least one pet. Some of us are “cat people”, some are “dog people”, and invariably some love both. No matter which side of the pet door you stand on, though, our pets are more popular and important to us than ever before. In a world where COVID dominates everything, pets are a respite. In this nastiest age of political divisiveness, our animals are a port in the storm. They calm us, they entertain us, they help us feel less lonely. Someday, when such things are allowed again, they can even help us meet new people and build relationships.
Maybe we should be looking to them as tiny Sherpa from a more innocent world. Perhaps, we should be taking more cues from our pets.
1. Be Happy to See Your Loved Ones, Every Time.
Dog people know well the simple joy of walking in the door of your home. The dog(s) will invariably be sitting, waiting, tail aflutter with excitement. Perhaps crowding the hallway with reckless abandon, desperate for their first glimpse of you. And the best part, it doesn’t matter how long you’re gone, 5 minutes or 5 days, it’s always the same.
So therein lies the lesson for the two-legged among us. We always say we want to live in the moment, enjoy what we have, be more grateful. What better time, now when life seems more fragile than ever, to start putting that thought into action.
With so many potential distractions around us, it’s all too easy to miss the little details. Think for a second, have your kids or wife ever walked into a room, and you were so busy working you didn’t even greet them? How easy is it to just let that moment pass by, knowing there will be another one later on. If we have learned anything over the past few months, it is that tomorrow is never promised.
Be excited to see your family, and tell them you love them. Every single time. It will make your day better, and theirs too. Just don’t slobber on them.
2. Don’t Worry About What (Most) People Think
Let’s face it, cats think of you as their server at the restaurant of life. They walk on your keyboard, knock over your stuff, with nary a backward glance of concern. Because they don’t care what anyone thinks, except maybe you, sometimes.
So what is this lesson then? Cats only care that you get them food and water, and that you are around when they want to visit you. Simply put, they only care about those who directly impact their daily lives. You can do this too, and eliminate a lot of stress and anxiety along the way!
A quick exercise will help you visualize this idea. Make a list with your spouse and kids at the top of the list, as you certainly care what they think. Let’s say your parents and siblings are on the list too. Now write the names of anyone who you interact with every single day. Any person that doesn’t impact the path of your life from day to day gets erased. And just like that, you have your list. Those are the only people whose opinions and thoughts should really concern you.
If someone isn’t impacting your life on a regular basis, don’t pay attention to what they think. Your cat certainly wouldn’t.
3. Praise Quickly, and Forget Quickly
Research has shown that dogs have, at most, a memory of about two minutes. So in order to enforce positive behavior, and discourage bad behavior, you pretty much have to catch them in the act. Put another way, two minutes later they forget that something bad happened.
Could a short memory like that be useful for people too? I think you already know the answer to that one.
If you see someone doing something good, even if it’s a complete stranger, let them know about it. In the moment, it means so much more to them, and it will feel great for you too. On the other side of the coin, if something bad happens, accept it and then move on. Don’t dwell on it, don’t let it ruin your day, just learn your lesson and let it go from your mind.
Think about your silly dog, grinning at you three minutes after he peed on the rug. He’s moved on, and so can you.
Pets are wonderful for so many reasons, from health benefits to companionship. But next time you are with your pets, stop to think what we can learn from them as well. It may just make you happier than you know.