5 Surprising Life Lessons Dogs Teach Us


On more than one occasion I've written about how our pets can teach us so much about staying present (see: A Pup's Guide to Being Present), but lately I've encountered even more amazing ways that pets (and, in my case, a sweet little pup named Barkley) can inspire and enlighten us with their unintentional wisdom. 

Anyone who has a pet is probably well aware that our amazing creatures are filled with a wisdom that often escapes us humans (perhaps because they have less to think / worry about than we do!), but we sometimes fail to tune in to the essential lessons they can share with us. In addition to teaching us to be more mindful (since, for most pets, that's just their nature!), pups can also teach us a few more life lessons, like... 



If you've ever played outside with a dog on a hot day, you've probably noticed that many of them will take a time out and find some shade when they get too hot or tired. (This, of course, isn't true of all pups, so make sure you're looking out for your four-legged friends, too!) Animals instinctively know when they need to rest. We, as humans, have this instinct too, but we often ignore it in favor of getting more crossed off our to-do lists. Take a tip from your pup, and consider how you can make rest and relaxation more of a priority in your life. It might not sound productive, but the more rested and relaxed you are, the better you'll be in every aspect of your life. (Bonus points if you make an effort to create a coziness for yourself, like some pups do in cozy crate!)



Speaking of prioritizing, pups are pretty great at doing it when they need to. Just put a treat in one hand and a ball in the other, and you'll quickly learn your pup's priorities. Even the most ball-loving dogs will typically choose the treats. Like dogs, we only have so much time and attention in every given day, and we need to be mindful of where we place our efforts. Take a moment (right now, if you can!) to jot down the three most important things in your life, and then reflect on how much time and attention you're giving to those areas. It's not always going to be easy to choose (after all, dogs ideally want the ball and the treat), but if you don't mindfully focus your attention, the things you value most might not receive the attention they deserve. 



When it comes to human love, expectations are incredibly difficult to avoid, but the fewer you have, the better off you (and your relationships!) will be. This isn't to say you shouldn't have standards. You shouldn't settle for less than you deserve (in love or in life!), but having standards is different than having expectations. Expectations, however well-intentioned, often lead to disappointment. And disappointments often build on one another, leading to resentment. Dogs, unlike most people, don't love with expectation. They might occasionally (always) want something from you (food, a walk, a cuddle, etc.), but they don't love you based on whether or not their expectations are met. Learning to love like that can be life-changing. 



Every dog I've ever owned has set clear boundaries when it comes to what they don't like. These boundaries (and the way they are expressed) varies from pup to pup, but most dogs are good at letting you know with their body language what they do and don't like. People, on the other hand, are sometimes shackled by the chains of politeness. Rather than asserting clearly what we don't want others to do, we often tiptoe around topics or soften our tone so as not to offend. While you shouldn't feel the need to shout your boundaries from the rooftops, you should be aware that it's okay (and even necessary!) to make your boundaries with others clear (even if that might mean a little growling from time to time...). Here are some tips for setting boundaries if you're not sure how to do it. 



One of the absolute best lessons we can learn from our canine companions is this: stay endlessly curious. Puppies are such great sources of knowledge and mindfulness because they are into everything. They notice things, pick up things, stick their noses in everything. Older dogs, too, often take note of new changes in their environment, and pups of all ages are quick to notice (and often introduce themselves to!) new people or pets. As people, we're often busy and stressed, and some of us might not even think we have time to be curious. But curiosity is one of life's greatest gifts, and it doesn't stop giving if you're open to experiencing it. If it's tough to do, pay attention to what your pup pays attention to. You'll be surprised at how much you can learn from looking at the world from a different point of view! 


This might not be the first time you've read some of these insights, but don't discount the value of revisiting wisdom (especially when the source of such knowledge comes in an adorable pup-shaped package!). The more often you reflect on life lessons like these, the more likely you'll be to actually take them into account in your day-to-day life, and taking ideas from the screen to the real world is where true wisdom comes into play. If you're lucky enough to have a pet, you're lucky enough to have a little guru by your side, a constant reminder than there is still so much to learn, and even the smallest of beings can impart wisdom in our lives. 



Today's post was sponsored by STUdio Pet, a company making beautiful, high-quality crates that fit right in with the look of your home. Dogs need a sanctuary to call their own, but most indoor kennels are not something you are excited to display in your home. STUdio Pet provides the highest quality crates that are sturdy enough to withstand any dog, yet stylish enough to fit anywhere in your home. Our extensive history in the manufacturing industry coupled with our passion for animal welfare ensures a quality kennel that will last a lifetime. All products are manufactured in the USA.

Finding Freedom: 6 Ways to Connect to Your Passion



Freedom is a hot topic every July (at least here in America!), and this year is no except. I happened to be doing a little research on the topic and came across my own blog post, What's Your Road to Freedom? (oddly, this is something that happens to me a lot — I'll be doing some research and stumble across something I wrote years ago. I take it as some sort of sign that it's something I need to revisit work on, or, in my more optimistic moments, as a sign that I already have the knowledge I need within me). 

This post really resonated with me, so I thought I'd update it a bit and share it with you.  Let's first start with the lyrics to Ben Harper's "One Road to Freedom," the song upon which the original post was based:  


Tell me which road are you traveling,
which road are you traveling on?
Tell me who will you turn to
when the light has gone?
I hear somebody calling
I hear somebody calling to me
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free

There's just one road
one road to freedom
There's just one road
one road to freedom

In my life I have been blessed
In my life I have been cursed
I have lived the best of times
I have suffered the worst
Do you know which road you're traveling?
Do you know where you want to be?
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free 


Listening to this song again brought me back to the time I first heard it, when I was asking myself, What is it that sets me free? And I still think what I thought before: what sets each of us free — what gives each of us that pure, thrilling sense of liberation — is focusing attention, work, and energy on what you're passionate about. 

You can be passionate about things, actions, people. You can be passionate about feelings and abstract concepts. You can be passionate about just about anything. And, as I've discovered and am now rediscovering, it's when those passions are pursued that true freedom is achieved. 

Of course, passions aren't always easy to identify or dedicate time and attention to. We may feel strongly about something, love it with all of our might, but that doesn't mean it'll come easily. Some passions take a lot of hard work and dedication. Some passions require being brave and pushing beyond boundaries. Whether your passion is cultivating creativity, rising to the top of a corporate ladder, growing a joy-filled family, or any other experience that fills your heart with excitement and purpose, it can sometimes be challenging to determine what your passion is. And, even if you've figured it out, it can be tricky to make it a priority in your life. 

It might sound simple — if you're passionate about something, that should be where you spend most of your time and effort — but, of course, we all know it's not that simple. But the more we're able to connect with our passions, the more free we become. Here are the ideas I came up with connecting with your passion, and making sure you continue to travel your own road to freedom: 


  1. Figure out your focus. If you're super passionate about something (for me, it's creating), it's tempting to want to do it all, to explore every little experience on that path, but if you don't get specific with what you're passionate about, you'll  find yourself overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. If you get too overwhelmed, you might even end up pushing your passion aside. So start small. Figure out what you're most interested in and zero in on that. You can always expand your vision later, but start off narrow at first. If you feel completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start, make a list of the things you love about whatever you're passionate about and rank the items. You'll quickly discover what matters most, and that's where you can direct attention. 

  2. Share what you love. Don't hide your passion from the world. Sharing your passion with the world in whatever way you can will not only bring joy to others (people love passionate people!), but it'll also make it more likely that you'll connect with like-minded people. When I was younger, I used to be secretive about my creative endeavors. I wrote in diaries; I drew and painted alone in my room. With Positively Present, I began sharing my creativity not only with people online, but I also began integrating my creative passions into my life. It can be hard (and intimidating!) to share your passion, but the more you share, the more opportunities you'll have to integrate your passion in your life. 

  3. Work it 'cause it's worth it. If you truly want to connect with your passion and create more freedom in your life, you're going to have to work at it. When you're in the midst of it, you've got to give it your all. And you've got to try to put yourself in the midst of it as often as possible. People often think that those who are passionate about their work or parts of their life have it easy, but that's not the case. Just because you're passionate about something, doesn't mean it won't involve hard work. Often we don't think "freedom" when we think "hard work," but the more work you put into your passion, the more liberated life feels. 

  4. Find a way to make it fun. When people are passionate about something, sometimes they lose sight of the fun. To make sure you don't miss out on that, take a step back from engaging in your passion and figure out how you can make it enjoyable. What inspired you in the first place? What makes you feel great when you're doing it? No matter what you're passionate about, there's a way to make it fun. One way to make your passion more fun is to include others in it. Whatever you love, there are probably others out there who love it, too. Find them and start a group or club. Or, if you can't connect with those who love what you love, find a way to share your passion with others in a way they can enjoy. 

  5. Innovate and create. Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to your passion: innovation and creation. You already have the drive and desire to talk about, think about, and work on your passion, but it's important to take it to the next level so you're always growing and learning. It's pretty hard to stay passionate about something if it's always the same thing. You don't have to do anything groundbreaking, but if you want to keep your passion alive, you've got to keep it fresh. Try experiencing it in a different place, using different tools, or with different people. 

  6. Take a passion break. One of the best ways to keep yourself connected to your passion is to take a break from it. This can be challenging if you're super excited about it (or if it's part of your job and the source of your income...), but a break is essential. You don't have to be doing something 24/7 to be good at it or get the most out of it. In fact, taking a break from whatever it is you love will make it even more enjoyable when you go back to it. And breaks give you a chance to reflect, come up with new ideas, and make sure your passion a freeing, not limiting, experience. 

While I've always been passionate about helping people find their passions, revisiting this old post and thinking about passion in relation to freedom has made me realize just how liberating passion can be. It give you the ability to find purpose and joy; it allows you to connect with the parts of yourself that you love most. Personal passions aren't always easy to identify, but I believe everyone has something s/he is passionate about, but some of us just have to work a little hard to figure out what it is.

If you know what your passion is, I hope this post inspires you to make it a priority in your life. If you don't yet know what it is, I hope you're inspired to find it. Because, revisiting this post four years after writing it has made me realize that passion does, in fact, lead to freedom. If you want to experience that liberation, you've got to connect with your passion. 



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Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present

Wireless Wonderland
Alice, referring to her experiences in Wonderland, in  Disney's Alice in Wonderland.
Also: me, every time I fall down the internet rabbit hole.  


Do ever feel as if you're in a different world when you're on your phone? Do you ever feel as if you've somehow fallen into it, like you've gotten sucked into the alternate reality of what's happening on the screen? 

Recently while watching Disney's Alice in Wonderland, it occurred to me how fascinating — and accurate — it is when people use the term "internet rabbit hole." How often have you gone on your phone to search for something and looked up from the screen a while later, surprised at how much time had passed since you'd unlocked the screen? How often have you said to yourself, "I'll just look at [Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / etc.] for a sec," and then found yourself in a lengthy cycle of app-checking? If you've ever experienced these, you're certainly not alone. Most people with a smartphone have probably had these experiences. 


Wondering where you stand in terms of phone addiction/use? Here's a Smartphone Compulsion Test to check out. (I scored 14/15.)


One study found that 89% of Americans check their smartphones “at least a few times a day," and 36% admit they’re “constantly checking and using” their phones. For those ages 18-24, that number is closer 50%. Even if you're not in the "constantly checking" group, all you have to do is look around to see that a lot of people are. This is not news, of course; many Americans (and others) are attached to their phones, some of us quite literally addicted. And it's no wonder! These devices provide us with some of the best aspects of life: connection to others, information and up-t0-the-minute news, entertainment and games, external validation, and so much more. It makes sense that we're drawn to such incredible devices. But when they become the focus of our lives, when we spend so much time in them that it's almost as if we're living parallel lives in real life and online, we have to step back and consider what this means for who we are (and who we want to be). 


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