What Dogs Have Taught Me About Motivation & Energy

Hi friends! We’re almost at the end of NANOWRIMO 2017, and it’s been a bit of a learning curve for me. For those of you who may not know, November is National Writing Month—authors around the world basically turn into hermits and try desperately to spit out a 50,000 word novel in just one month. Now, I went into this month with the intention of creating a writing routine and making it a habit rather than hitting a specific wordcount, and boy did it start off rough.

Umm… I thought this was a post about dogs, Jessica?

I’m getting there. Bear with me.

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you struggle to get things done. Most of us, including myself, are waiting for or trying to find the motivation and energy to do what needs to be done. The funny thing is, these are often things that we actually want to do. They’re the things that bring joy into our lives or help us to be better versions of ourselves. I usually find myself slumped on the couch waiting for the spark of motivation that will get me writing or exercising.

For a long time this has applied to me and writing—I love writing, I want to write every day, but I often put it off because I don’t feel motivated. This is something I’d hoped to change with NANOWRIMO. But the first week came and went and I wasn’t doing very well. Especially on days that I had to work. Cue the self-deprecating inner monologue. I immediately started to get down on myself for not working to achieve my goals. This was made worse by the fact that I knew that writing hadn’t always been a struggle for me. At the beginning of 2017 I banged out 30,000 words in no time at all. But when my mom passed away my manuscript came to a screeching halt. She was the only person to have read what I’d written and I was suddenly terrified of making necessary changes, continuing on, or even starting from scratch. That is, until I took notice of a particular doggie trait.

See, I told you I was getting there.

Dogs mimic our energy. If I’m feeling particularly heavy one day, I noticed that my dogs feel that too. They mope around the house with me and are completely content to cuddle on the couch all day, even if they don’t want to watch the Harry Potter films for the umpteen-millionth time. When it comes to energy, my border collie is the living definition of Newton’s first law of motion—let’s just call it Brody’s First Law of Motion:

A Brody at rest tends to stay at rest and a Brody in motion tends to stay in motion.

Now, before I continue, Brody also has a Theory of Gravity:

The gravitational pull exerted on a Brody at rest increases exponentially the longer he is at rest.

I have NEVER seen a dog become so heavy when he is ready to sleep. His head turns into a 50 pound dead weight that will cut off all blood supply to whichever limb it is rested on. This works for humans too. Have you ever noticed that the longer you’ve been in a slump, the harder it is to get out of? A human at rest tends to stay at rest. How do we fix this? We get moving.

No matter how lazy we’ve been or how long we’ve been curled up in bed, the second I ask my dogs if they’re ready for walkies all traces of sluggishness disappear. Everything suddenly becomes the most exciting and magical thing in the world. Rarely, if ever, will you mention a walk or throw a ball and see my dogs lay there as if to say, “No thanks, I don’t have the motivation or energy for that today.” That’s because dogs instinctively know that energy isn’t given, it’s made. More specifically, it’s made by converting the energy that lies behind motivation into action.

create energy breaker

Dogs are experts at naturally creating the energy to do the things they love, and maybe even the things they’re not particularly fond of. My oldest husky-mix, Dakota—like most dogs—LOVES walks. But she HATES her harness. Having to wear it does not make her turn around and go back inside the house and think, “I don’t want to go for a walk. I don’t have the energy to deal with that harness today.” She just waits—albeit, impatiently—for me to strap it onto her so that she can take off out the door. Dogs’ ability to effortlessly create energy is also why they’re such good learners. I recently started training Dakota to sit up on her hind legs—kind of like a prairie dog, and she was not happy. But she still did her best to learn because it was a new opportunity to get carrots—which make her VERY happy.

This got me thinking about the days where I sit on the couch all day just waiting for motivation to strike so I can get writing. Sometimes the writing process can be a pain—I mean, it’s a lot of work. Thinking is hard! But I always feel amazing and so much lighter after I’ve completed a session, even if I deleted 1000 words and only wrote 100 new ones. It’s like my therapy. It makes me happy, just like carrots and walks make Dakota happy. So why was I putting it off for something as silly as my own thought process. I can’t even count the number of times I neglected to write because I was thinking “I don’t have the energy” or “The motivation just isn’t there today”. Did Tala… I mean, Frodo… wait around for the motivation and energy to take the ring to Mordor? No. The motivation was already there, and he converted that motivation into the energy required to take action and say “I will take the ring,”… “though I do not know the way.” If Dakota had waited for the motivation to learn her new trick, she’d still be waiting for her favorite treat.

Our inner monologue has a profound impact on our energy. Every thought that goes through our minds affects us on a subconscious level that bleeds into our actions and the way we live our lives. Instead of speaking to myself as I normally would, I simply started talking to myself like I would to my best friend. I started encouraging myself the way I encourage Dakota when she’s learning a new trick. I started introducing some positive self-talk into my thoughts.

Instead of waking up and thinking “I need to find the energy to __ today” I started thinking “I’m going to make the energy to __ today”. Instead of thinking “I’m don’t have the motivation to __ today” I started thinking I ammotivated to __ today”. After all, you do, in fact, already have the motivation. That’s why we feel so guilty when we procrastinate. We know what needs to be done and we often want to get it done. We just don’t want to take the initial step of mustering up the energy to get going—we scroll through Facebook, waiting for the motivation fairy to sprinkle some get going dust on us. We are already motivated. We’re just not looking at that motivation in the right way. We’re looking at it from an “I can’t” perspective when it’s a natural “I can” energizing force. That’s where the inner conflict comes into play.

Our brains naturally hate change, even a change as simple as getting started on a project—whether it’s writing, or getting fit, or simply cleaning the house. That’s why we need to take it slow and start from the beginning. What better place to start than with your own mindset? That simple switch in thinking, from I can’t to I can, from viewing motivation as some magical force instead of seeing it for what it actually is—energy just waiting to be converted into action—is the first step to living life with more intention. There’s no motivation fairy. She’s not going to come no matter how long you wait. But, when you change your thoughts and tell yourself that you already have motivation and energy, they will fall into place. If that doesn’t work and all else fails, feel free to use my last-resort motivational tactic:

If Frodo can take the ring to Mordor, then you can __*

*insert special skill here

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