THE BLOG

Life Coach Lessons From a Puppy

26/06/2014 15:07 BST | Updated 25/08/2014 10:59 BST

As I discussed in my podcast life is so much easier and straightforward when you don't take things personally, but I thought I would share with you the story of how modelling my dog's behaviour led to my latest ponderings and how really he should be the author of today's post.

As some of you might know I recently became the proud owner of a very cute, extremely friendly and exceptionally inquisitive puppy and I thought I would make him part of my podcast and YouTube video series because he taught me a valuable lesson in not making other people's issues your own.

It all started as I watched the extender lead fly and my little puppy was off like a shot to say hello to yet another dog he had spotted out of the corner of his eye. Now something happens to you when you become a dog owner, where it seems perfectly acceptable to follow your pooch vocalising rather loudly to the owner of the other dog that you come in peace, your puppy is friendly followed by the obligatory and sometimes slightly apprehensive question "Is your dog friendly too?". Nine times out of ten you'll hear the calming words that the pooch in question is friendly and then you'll let your dog off the lead, watch them play and have a little chat with the owner.

However this time I heard a voice call back "She's not friendly she's just come back from the vet and is feeling sorry for herself and probably wouldn't like a bouncy puppy right now". I immediately retracted the lead, distracted my puppy, thanked the owner for the heads up and walked in the opposite direction. Within seconds, my little one had found something else to entertain him and I very much doubt he's thought about that West Highland Terrier since. His life is much the better for not letting another dog's issues get to him.

So there I am as usual trying to model successful behaviour and incorporate it into my teachings. What did my puppy do that elicited such behaviour?

He didn't try and control the situation. I exerted alpha behaviour and somewhere along the line he realised to fight for control would cause him more pain than pleasure. What he probably didn't realise is that every time you focus on how to control situations, people, outcomes, you shut yourself off to all the possibilities that are out there by focussing on that which you have no control over. He allowed his focus to be shifted and existed in the present moment, rather than focussing on what had occurred five seconds before. He exhibited flexibility and as such his thoughts and observations allowed him to find a far more productive outcome in the form of entertainment provided by a pigeon.

Had this exchange occurred between two humans there are a number of different alternative scenarios that could have happened.

1. He could have got all worked up and allowed his system to flood with the feelings of rejection which could each and every day fester into low self-esteem, low self-worth, and really grate away his confidence.

2. He could have become aggressive and abusive to protect himself from feeling any rejection by rejecting that which he knew he couldn't have.

3. He could have tried the tactic, I'm going to fix your problem, let me help you.

In each one of these scenarios, there is a huge amount of negative energy and unhelpful focus being created. In the end no one benefits, yet as humans we continually choose one of these three options rather than just walking away from a situation.

My clients often hear me say, you have to ask the right questions to get the right results, so in a moment where you have a choice about letting someone else's issues get to you or not just shift your focus by asking yourself "What else could I think about that would make me feel happy and powerful?"

Your mood is governed by your focus and that which you focus on you are undoubtedly moved towards. Although it's not always possible to walk away as nothing is ever really that black and white, you can emotionally create distance between a situation and the perceived feelings you have chosen to attach to that situation. All you need to do is make a conscious choice to not take anything anyone else does or says personally, to leave their issues with them and to not try and fix them. For some of you this may be hard at first but as with everything practice makes perfect.

If you'd like to connect with Sloan directly you can do so via her website or via email at huffpost@sloansw.com or on YouTube.

To hear more podcasts in the series subscribe to Get In The Zone With Sloan on iTunes.