Our Toy Fox Terrier Annie has lived with us since she was three months old. Over the past three years she has been perfectly comfortable in our home but two weeks ago that changed.
Our dining, living and family rooms along with our kitchen have wood floors. In all of the rooms we have area rugs covering much of the floors, with the exception being the hallway that runs between the living room, dining room and family room and the hallway from the dining room to the kitchen. When I noticed she was avoiding the wood floors, I didn’t pay too much attention. My thought was that it was cold and perhaps she was warmer standing on the area rugs. When I offered her food and instead of her usual mad dash she just danced around on the family room rug, I realized that it was more than chilly floors.
Something has gotten between her ears. For some reason – maybe she tripped and fell – she is frightened of the wood floors. In her body language and actions you can see her trying to figure out how to maneuver from one area to another. To get to the kitchen she will run and jump from the family room rug to the one under the game table only to realize she is even further away. She will then return to the family room rug and continue her deliberations. When tempted with food, she will bark, spin and pant as she tries to determine how to get to it without crossing a wood floor. Eventually, the prospect of food will outweigh her fear and she will scamper to the rug in front of the kitchen sink to receive her reward.
Our hallways have Annie baffled. For some reason, the hall between the dining and living room is dangerous but the one from the dining room to the kitchen is o.k. Coming through the front door she immediately rushes to the dining room rug; from there through the “good” hallway, to the rug in the kitchen; she then proceeds to the rug under the breakfast table; then to the rug in front of the door to the utility room and then to the utility room and her dinner dish. With a pause to build courage at each rug, the process is tiring for her and hilarious to watch.
Annie is not the only one to be afflicted by thoughts she can’t get rid of. I had been playing golf pretty well until a couple of months ago when I began to slice short-iron shots. After giving it some thought, I realized that not turning my shoulders occasioned the problem, so I became conscious of making sure that I made a good shoulder turn. Last week I was late, so I met my buddies on the first tee and foregoing any warm up, hit a good tee shot and proceeded to play pretty well for the first three holes. Then it happened. I was about 50 yards out, hitting a sand wedge in, when in the middle of my back swing, I wondered if I was turning my shoulders. At that point I should have quit, gone to the clubhouse and drank beer…stick a fork in me I was done. Like Annie and the floors, the thought was between my ears and it wasn’t going away.
It’s part of the human condition for a thought to lodge in our minds and once there prevent us from succeeding. Like Annie’s irrational fear of our wood floors, the fear of failure can deter you from trying something new. Likewise, the mindset that there is just one way a job can be done, discourages innovation.
I have an acquaintance who hates his job. Every time we are together he moans about his boss, pay, hours and lack of advancement. He has written a plan for a new business venture – one I believe would succeed – and has funding lined up; however, he fears the possibility of failure more than he hates his job, so he continues to bemoan his circumstances. He doesn’t recognize that the misery that would accrue from failure wouldn’t be much worse than the unhappiness he now endures. I have learned that often the fear of failure may be overcome by assessing the true impact of a failure.
I had a mechanic working in my sheet metal shop who always found a reason not to use a new piece of equipment. After a while I realized that he didn’t want to change how he did things. Not that he didn’t care about productivity but he was accustomed to the old machine. In his mind, his way worked and as such, was as good if not better than trying another. I begged, I cajoled, I threatened, all to no avail. So one night, using a length of chain and a padlock, I made the old machine inoperable, forcing him to use the new device. After a couple of days of muttering, he thanked me for making his job easier. He learned that even though it’s difficult to try something new, there is no way to gain productivity than by doing so.
I hope with time that Annie will work it out and no longer fear our wood floors. As for my golf swing, if I get over the shoulder turn thought, it will be something else: grip, stance, alignment – always something – but that’s golf.
“Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.” – Smiley Blanton
“It is not a matter of being fearless. The fear is sometimes constant, but it’s about moving forward regardless of the fear. Courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” -Gillian Anderson