For those unfamiliar, let me share with you one of my favorite short parables. Pound-for-pound it best captures the essence of what it means to be human, succinctly and poignantly and any other
Let us commence:
The Story of Two Wolves
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This resonates with me on such a deep level, looking at the positive and negative valence of emotions we all oscillate between. Where attention goes, energy flows, so we magnify the seeming importance and severity of any situation or emotion based on how much we feed it. This is a very important concept to understand about the mind (it has a fancy name but I’m too tired to look it up): things are not as bad as they seem to be, but rather the more we think and obsess over them the more we convince ourselves of
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.-Mark Twain
For some mindfulness and meditation helps keep the awareness of the mind running rampant in check, and that’s fine – do what works for you. I’ll share with you a recent addition to my stratospherically high list of things I do to feel sane that has been particularly helpful. I created a a daily journal in the form of a spreadsheet that tracks whether I had a good or bad day (from an inside-out NOT outside-in perspective, meaning how I ACTUALLY felt during the day vs. the Instagram worthy external daily events that might make it SEEM like I had a good day – VERY important distinction). Except instead of good or bad day I call it “Good Wolf” and “Bad Wolf” to pay tribute and serve as a reminder. I fill out the sheet each day, marking which wolf I fed the most and write brief notes recapping my day (moments of gratitude or otherwise).
From there, you can track this over time to reverse-engineer why you’ve had a long succession of good or bad days and make changes accordingly. I’ve taken it a step further and tried to program out the “80/20” of what’s required for a good day.
So far I have:
- Did you sleep well?
- Did you shut off work at 5pm?
- Did you spend time with friends or loved ones?
The value in this exercise is multifold:
- It prompts daily awareness and mindfulness so you can’t run off in a negative spiral without at least being cognizant of it.
- It allows you to track daily snapshots of your life so you can look back over periods and draw conclusions (to counter nostalgia and romanticising the past, for example, that may handicap your efforts to accurately assess and make positive changes in your life or learn much needed lessons).
- The quantitative aspect of it allows you to gamify the process and appeal to your competitive and perfectionistic tendencies (learn to dance with your shadow side). For example, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep the other day, so I asked myself what mindset would I need and what would I have to do to make sure I maintain my positive albeit laughably short streak going.
- You can experiment and start to codify what it takes to feed the good wolf.
This is THE skill to learn and develop, otherwise we’re left chasing ideals, materialism, goals, and future selves hoping THEN we will finally FEEL how we could’ve felt all along the way. Don’t wait, get impatient with your happiness.
Journal on and mind your feedings.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”