We have 3 dogs, meaning the canines outnumber the humans in our household. We adopted them from our local dog shelter in 2009 and 2010. They’re roughly the same age and have sorted out among themselves the hierarchy of the pack. For the most part, it’s a peaceable kingdom.
It takes only one dog’s bark at something for the other two to join in. At times, it’s beneficial, like when someone enters the front gate. At other times, it’s a problem, like when our insecure dog spies other canines while I’m walking them. That’s where the value of options has shown itself.
The importance of options
I generally keep our morning walk short in the summer because I want to get them and me home before the pavement heats up. And I have a route that I typically follow because it keeps the dogs in a consistent routine and me on schedule to start my day no later than 8:30.
I’ve learned that the best way to keep our insecure dog in a happy state is to constantly scan the area for other dogs and be ready to take any one of several alternate routes home so he can remain calm. I don’t like changing paths on short notice because it sometimes means more walking time or changing paths again and again to return the pack home in the same happy state they were in when we left. But I find it’s worth the extra effort because it also keeps me in a calm, happy state if I’m not wrangling three excited dogs before I’ve had a sip of coffee.
The value of options
I love learning about new goals and new ideas they want to realize. I ask how we’re going to get there to hear what they have in mind for our path forward. When I hear very detailed and thorough responses, I nod and get excited with them. What I keep to myself is that this very detailed path will likely need an alternate route. Or two, or three.
To use a travel metaphor, I consider myself my clients’ navigator. I hear where they want to go and what route they want to take, and I immediately look at our journey from a very high perspective to see what obstacles, road construction, traffic, or weather might have an impact on our travel. I begin to identify alternate routes for us to consider in the event of the unexpected, which I expect to occur.
Options don’t mean failure
Knowing there likely will be changes to our route doesn’t bother me, but it sometimes troubles a client. Our natural, human response to difficulty is negative talk about ourselves, others, or situations that helps us soothe the burn of what we perceive as failure. When the difficult things occur, I am the calm voice to counter the destructive dialogue going on in my client’s head. The magic happens when my clients see the options that get us to our destination and we resume our journey.
At the time we adopted our dogs, I didn’t know they would be excellent teachers about humans. What I knew then was that we wanted to have the unbridled happiness of a dog in our home, and we have it, times 3. They’ve also allowed us to learn something of great value: alternate routes lead us to the same place as the planned routes do.