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Self-Help

You can learn a lot from a dog. Specifically, mine

My dog Jackson has a lot going for him. Wag a little, get some love from me, eat two squares a day and get a couple walks in. In between, he’ll catch plenty of naps. Sure they can’t reason (as far as I can tell) or decide what to get at Whole Foods, and I assume their love life is less than can be desired, but they can sure teach us a lot about simplicity and focus.

I decided to take a closer look at his daily routine and see what lessons we can learn.

Find comfort in a routine

We can split hairs here and make the case that dogs don’t set their routine but they certainly have one. They get up, paw at the bed looking for breakfast, follow you around until they get their walk and then come back and catch some zzz’s. By and large, they seem pretty happy.

Setting a routine can bring us plenty of happiness too. Routines allow us to have control over some of our days. Get important daily tasks done without having them hang over our head. Maybe develop a side hustle, or connect with friends. They also help simplify your life and bring more satisfaction each day.

For grownups, morning and evening routines constitute the frontline defense in fighting that most common malady of adulthood: “I feel like life’s just passing me by” syndrome.

“Routines allow you to carve out time to pursue your passion every single day.”

Enjoy the simple things in life

Jackson likes his walks. Gets them 2x a day. Sure he’s on a leash, and I bet he might not mind if I dropped that thing once in a while, but each day his tail wagging tells me he’s pretty content with our daily 30-minute journey.

We on the other hand, not so much. There are tons of things that make our days far from simple, but I’m focused on arguably the most significant complexity we face — mindless checking.

You know that I’m talking about. Mindless checking is the toxic relationship we all have with our phone — myself included. Did you know the average person checks their phone about 80x a day according to studies? Most times what we find when checking our phones is nothing. It’s merely a bombardment to your senses that triggers even more stress and anxiety. Talk about the opposite of simplicity.

Here’s a great idea. Download one of GaryVee’s wallpapers here. The hope is that this will inspire you to look at your phone less and take back your day.

There are some things you will not enjoy that you have to do, but likely many others that you could eliminate. Cutting these out of life will give you more time to do what you enjoy.

Focus only on what’s important

Eat, sleep and walk. That’s all Jackson needs. Well, he does angle for the empty peanut butter jars, but who can blame him. Granted we desire a bit more, but the idea of focusing only on what’s essential brings a lot of benefits. Humans have too many choices these days, and we spend far too much time worrying that we’re missing out. This causes decision fatigue draining our mental capacity when faced with too many choices.

I recommend you try to follow Warren Buffet’s advice. He once told his pilot to make a list of 25 things he wanted to achieve. He then told him to eliminate all but the top five. This is a fantastic exercise to way to get super focused on your goals and how you spend your time.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett

Don’t crave material things

Jackson doesn’t crave nor need anything materialistic. While we might need just a bit more than a dog, there’s a real beauty in not pursuing materialistic things. It’s one of the main principles of Stoicism — one of the most practical philosophies today. Stoicism stresses to not fall prey to modern day society’s quest for all things materialistic. We try to keep up with our friends, but the reality is that those worldly things aren’t making them much happier. If we strive to want less, our desire decreases, and we become more satisfied with what we have.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” ― Epictetus

Enjoy the silence (solitude)

Jackson spends a large part of his day alone with his thoughts. I’m not suggesting we spend 18 hours a day thinking, but it’s scientifically proven that there are multiple benefits to solitude. You’ll develop more compassion, increased productivity, build mental strength and even plan your life. Set aside a few minutes each day to be alone with your thoughts — just 10 minutes a day can help. Silence your electronics and allow yourself to think for a few minutes.

Being alone with your thoughts gives your brain a chance to wander, which can help you become more creative.

Love unconditionally

There is one thing that is just about as guaranteed as the sun coming up each day, and that’s Jackson wagging his tail every time he sees me. Sure, sometimes he’s eagerly waiting for his walk or food but for the most part its unconditional love. He loves me with expectations of very little in return. Research tells us that the parts of the brain that light up during unconditional love are similar to those involved in romantic love and maternal love, and are linked to the brain’s reward system. Today when with your partner or friend try not to let the little things annoy you, be more open in communicating how you feel and empathize a bit more when taking others feelings into account. Feels pretty good.

At the center of how our bodies respond to love and affection is a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin makes us feel good by acting through the dopamine reward system. However, “Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain, and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal. It also seems to play an important role in our relationships.”

True mature love should come with no strings attached.”

Just be happy

In the end, Jackson is a happy dog. Never seen the guy have a bad day. It’s unrealistic to assume you can be satisfied 100% of the time and if you strive to, you’re only going to get unhappy. A great reminder I tell myself is life is about impermanence. It’s about being comfortable with change. When you are happy, remember it won’t last and when you’re sad, remember the same. Don’t get drawn into the extremes of joy and pain, they don’t last. Our moods and emotions always change, but if you remember this state of impermanence, you actually end up being much more peaceful.

“Life is a joy between two pains.” —  Sai Baba

If you liked this article, let me know in the comments and I’m likely to write some more.

This article first appeared on Medium.

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