Before settling into the work day, I start each morning by walking my dog. It’s a great way to start the day, because she is always so excited for the new day and the upcoming walk. Her tail wags, the ears perk up, and she jumps at the door. As we started down one of the usual paths, I thought about how wonderful it would be to feel that much excitement and anticipation each morning. I started thinking about what other behaviors she exhibits that could be applicable to my work day. I realized there is a lot we can learn from our dogs.
Start Each Morning Excited
A lot of people don’t look forward to the work day, and some even dread it. But if you think in terms of potential, it opens up the door for excitement. What could this day hold? What could you accomplish if you embarked on your work with enthusiasm? Don’t think of the work day as a list of tasks that just need to be checked off. People go through the motions in order to get through another eight hours and go home.
When I go on the walk each morning, I’m not thinking of it as a series of steps, one foot in front of the other, until I return home. I’m enjoying the morning air, the sunshine, the scenery – I’m enjoying the experience. Step back from all the small steps that make up the day, and look at the scenery: where are you going in your career? Is the path itself enjoyable? If it is, you should be able to wake up each morning as excited as a dog ready for another opportunity to see what awaits outside.
Live in the Moment
Dogs don’t sit around thinking about what happened last week, or yesterday, or even three minutes ago. They live in the moment. They focus on now. What better way to maximize productivity at work? It sounds obvious – focus on the task at hand. However, people often get distracted trying too hard to multitask, or focusing on a presentation that went poorly last week, or worrying about the review tomorrow. If you can stay in the moment and give your complete attention to the current task, there is no room left for stressful thoughts. Maybe that’s why dogs seem eternally happy.
Be Eager to Learn
Dogs love to learn new tricks. They may not always pick up on what you are trying to teach them right away, but they are persistent and enjoy the training process. And yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. No matter what your job is, how long you’ve been doing it, or how good you are at it, there is always more to learn. Job training can sometimes be boring, frustrating, seem pointless, or simply be really difficult. But mastering a new skill is rewarding. Applying new skills to the job may even be recognized with rewards, such as a promotion. So, be eager to learn something new and enjoy the stimulation of the training process. Let persistence win out over frustration.
Be Part of the Pack
Dogs are social animals. They like to be part of a pack (or family, in many cases); social interaction and feedback from others is important. For most of us, there is also a “pack” that we interact with regularly on the job. It may be primarily a few people who function as a small group, or a large production team. In any case, it behooves us to interact well with others and be part of the pack. Historically, the pack provided food and protection by hunting and defending territory together. While our needs may not be as critical today, it is good to know that your team “has your back”. People need to know they can count on each other to get the job done and to be honest and fair. Those who step on others to rise ahead may find that no one is there to stand beside them when needed.
Dogs are grateful for every treat, every belly rub, every bit of attention bestowed upon them. Their appreciation is obvious and automatic. Humans don’t have such tell-tale signs of gratitude, no wagging tail or perked up ears. We need to make an effort to let others know that we appreciate their efforts. Say “thank you” often, tell others you appreciate their help, smile freely, and do something to help them in return. Being grateful feels good, and it makes others feel good when you show it.
If you are a dog owner, what else can you learn from your dog and apply to the job? Look at your daily routine with your spouse, your kids, your friends: where can you take inspiration for positive lessons to apply on the job?
This article was written by Sherrie Elzey, Ph.D., a sales engineer and freelance technical writer/editor. Sherrie has a background in nanoscience and nanotechnology research, with experience in academia, government, and industry positions.