See that adorable puppy up there? That’s my french bulldog, Lucy. Lucy is a bundle of all things wonderful, except for a new habit she recently developed: pooping in her crate.
If you don’t know anything about dogs, the important thing to know is that pooping in the crate goes against a dog’s natural instincts. The crate is supposed to be their safe place – a place just for them – and they naturally don’t want to poop or pee there; except for Lucy, who does both. Since she started doing this, I’ve read training manuals, confirmed her crate is the right size, filled it with food and treats and toys to comfort her, but nothing works. She’ll happily go into her crate. But the second I walk away, she’s using it as a toilet.
It’s a messy and incredibly frustrating habit. Lately, though, I’ve realized that how messy this gets has a lot to do with my mood before it happens.
For example, if Lucy poops in her crate on a morning when I’m relatively awake and not stressed out, I calmly lift her out of the crate, clean off her paws, and then clean out the crate. Usually, she’ll watch me during the last step because she knows she shouldn’t have done it. Five minutes pass and I can leave the apartment.
However, if it happens when I’m tired or stressed, my reaction is much more frantic. I sigh loudly (maybe even groan a little) and she steps even further into her poop when I try to pick her up. She’ll then wildly thrash around in an effort not to be picked up, which results in a poop-covered paw to my torso or face. The whole cleanup process takes twice as long and becomes exponentially more disgusting.
After a few weeks of this, I realized that my level of frustration in these incidents can be controlled – by me. I have a choice to either remain calm and get through it quickly or freak out and ruin the whole morning. So why wouldn’t I always choose the first option?
Because I’m constantly battling a fear-based mentality. Rather than viewing these events as isolated incidents, I see them as part of a pattern that needs to be fixed immediately lest everything should be broken for the rest of time. Rather than handling it and move on, I dive into a spiral of despair that looks something like this:
I’ve already trained my dog to “go” outside so she’s actively going against that training. Therefore, she must be unhappy, which means I’m doing something wrong for her, which means she’ll continue pooping in her crate, which means she’ll never properly be housetrained, which means we’ll never be able to let her roam freely at home and she’ll never be happy.
Sigh. I’m exhausted just typing this out!
I can avoid this spiral of despair only on days when I have the ability to be more mindful and maintain a logical frame of mind. How it should look is this:
So she pooped in her crate. Perhaps I didn’t take her out for a long enough walk before crating her. Perhaps I took her for a walk too soon after eating. Perhaps she’s having a stomach issue and she couldn’t hold it. Or, perhaps she is upset. I can evaluate which is the most likely reason based on whatever else happened recently and then adjust accordingly: Here’s what I could have done better. Next time it will be better. Every day is a chance to start anew.
Doesn’t that sound so much better? So why don’t I do it all the time?
Again, that fear-based mentality. Whether in life or work, I have to remain extremely mindful to overcome fear, live in the moment, and get shit done. Yes, there are times when something doesn’t go exactly the way I planned. And yes, there are times when I wish I could be starting off on a stronger foot. But at the end of the day, all we can control is how we play the cards we’re dealt. Working in startups has taught me that more than anything. In startups, there’s never going to be enough of a budget, enough people to help out, or enough traction. You just have to make it work. You just have to buckle down and surge forward. More often than not, simply doing that can create a lot more success than ever seemed possible before!
Do you ever find yourself metaphorically getting covered in shit, all because your emotional side won out over your logical side?