Do you have dogs?

How an unexpected question transformed intention into action


Recently, a friend shared with me how an unexpected question helped him move from intention to action. After role shifts in his career and at home, he’s been struggling to, as he put it, “regain control of my schedule.” He’s in a career defined by deadlines, so scheduling and planning are ingrained habits. Sometimes, he says, “so ingrained they get in the way.”

 “I’ve been trying to find time to get back in shape. I have a home gym, a basketball hoop in my driveway, and I worked out regularly for years before life changed a year ago. I want to get back into my routine, thing is, I only know one way to do it: plan, set a schedule, specific exercises, track my results. I’ve been focused on getting everything else done, so there was no time for all that. I wanted to get started, I thought about it every day… I just didn’t do it… until a couple months ago.”

        What changed, I asked.

        He smiled, shook his head, and said, “Someone reminded me I have a dog.”

        Come again?

        “I was talking about all this with a friend who owns a gym. I expected her to give me a lecture about prioritizing my physical health, invite me to her gym… nope.

        “She just grinned at me and asked, ‘Do you have dogs?’

        “I said I did – she knew I did – so I waited for the other shoe to drop. It did. She added, ‘Take your dog for a walk every day. Set an alarm if you have to. Just get up from your desk, put the leash on the dog, and get outside. He’ll love it, and you will too.’”

        “How does this help me plan my workout routine?” my friend asked the trainer.

        “It won’t,” the trainer said, “You don’t need a detailed plan to start exercising again. You want one, because plans are comfortable for you. You feel all this pressure to get everything done, to figure it all out with all these changes in your routine, and you won’t give yourself permission to introduce something different that might break up the flow. The work will be there when you get back, and, I promise, fifteen minutes won’t kill any deadlines.”

        My friend thought about what she said all the way home, where his dogs greeted him at the door. He started to walk past them – thinking about deadlines – and then, he stopped. Fifteen minutes, he thought. I’ve got that. So, he tossed his sport coat across the stair rail, changed his shoes, and took his furry pals for a walk.

        “That was a month ago,” my friend said, “And you know what? Two weeks in, on the way back from the walk, I opened the garage door and saw my weight bench, all dusty and ignored. Just fifteen minutes, I thought, and I got in a few quick sets.

      He laughed, “‘Walk the dog,’ she said. I thought she was patronizing me. When I chose to listen, I realized she was helping me see past my self-imposed limitations. Now my pants, and my perspective, both fit a lot better.”

This article was originally published in the April 2020 issue of Sandpoint Living Local / Coeur d’Alene Living Local.

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