Lessons from a two-legged dog

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I have been known to be a perfectionist; an all or nothing type of girl. I like things to be just “so” and if they aren’t just right then my tendency is to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As I’ve learned over the years, the way we do one thing tends to be the way we do everything, and so yes, this tendency has at times crept into my approach towards my health.

You know how it is… you’ve just taken on a new way of eating; let’s say you’ve just eliminated refined sugar from your diet. It’s going brilliantly and you’re all proud of yourself: you feel great. And then a few weeks later, in a moment of weakness, you reach for that one cookie. And we all know it’s never just one cookie. Once you’ve had that cookie, you rationalize: “Well, now I’ve screwed the whole thing, I might as well have a whole HANDFUL of cookies, and why not that tub of ice cream while I’m at it?” And it goes downhill from there.

With crazy schedules, it can be easy to fall into this habit of all or nothing and to use our busy-ness as a reason to not do anything. I’m a long distance runner, and I sometimes find myself not going for a run because I don’t have time for a 5 mile run or more, and for whatever reason 3 miles – even though really that’s better than no miles – feels somehow like not enough. So I end up doing nothing. It’s silly, but we all do some version of that.

Today on my (yes, 5 mile) run, I was feeling particularly proud of myself because not only had I made time for a run, but I’d done a full workout before running. As I was cruising along feeling good, I came upon a woman walking her dog – a dog that had been badly injured and had its two hind legs strapped in a trolley. I think this situation was a new one for the dog, because it was really struggling to move forward using only its two front legs, and the woman had to do a lot of gentle encouraging and steering to help him along.

The dog looked up at me as I passed and I almost immediately got teary. I realized how silly it is that sometimes I will forgo taking care of myself because all the bits and pieces aren’t perfect. All or nothing really is only nothing. As a very wise woman recently said to me: “Perfection is the lowest standard.” And that dog’s determination and will and making do with what he had is absolutely the highest standard.

Let’s take this lesson into our busy lives and remember the two-legged dog when we use our busy-ness as reason to not take care of ourselves. Walk (or run) up the stairs instead of taking the escalator if you don’t have time to hit the gym. Make use of the heaviness of your laptop bag when you’re waiting in line at the airport and do some bicep curls. Maybe you don’t have time for a full yoga class, but why not do a few sun salutations in the morning, and finish the day with child’s pose? Grab the apple instead of the cookie when you’re craving something sweet. Work with what you’ve got, no matter how little it seems.

I have a feeling the rewards will be worth it.

photo credit



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