Do you ever read or hear something that rings so true? You can almost imagine that it was written / spoken about you.
The Howling Dog story is exactly one of those somethings.
It may be a simple story (parable? metaphor? fable?) but it is so on point and resonated with me immediately.
The gist of the story is something like this:
A man hears a neighboring dog howling day after day. Thinking that the howling will just stop, he ignores it at first. But eventually, he walks over to his neighbor’s house to see what the story is. He asks the dog’s owner why the pup is howling non stop, all day long.
The owner answers very nonchalant that the dog howls because he is sitting on a nail.
A little bewildered, the man asks the owner why doesn’t he get off the nail?
And the dog’s owner answers: because it isn’t painful enough yet.
I don’t know about you, but I have been this dog many times in my life. Sitting on that nail, staying stuck for far too long.
And why on earth did I not feel any sort of urgency to change my situation?
Fear. Plain and simple.
It is easier to maintain the status quo. At least you know what to expect. Isn’t that easier than taking a chance?
Doesn’t take me long to have a flood of examples fighting for my attention.
Remember that 5 year relationship with the French guy in my early 20’s? Why did it take him disappearing (sneaking off) to the World Cup finals (on my birthday), delivered to the stadium by helicopter from LAX (we lived in NYC) to be the final straw. I was unhappy for what seemed like forever. Liked the guy, in fact loved him but knew it was not going in the direction I wanted. Why did it take one of those line in the sand moments to end it for good?
What about that job that I stayed with for over a decade? The one with the boss that acted like a complete psychopath every single day. It never brought me joy. It brought me a good paycheck and some fun perks but never happiness. I felt like I couldn’t leave because I would be letting someone down. Who? The boss who used to tell me that everyone is replaceable. Was I afraid of conflict? Maybe failure? Not getting another job ever again? Why didn’t I have the courage to move on years earlier?
Oh and the 15 pounds of post baby weight I have been carrying around for over 17 years. So much easier to go to the gym half ass and sort of exercise, sort of watch what I eat, sort of really want to lose this weight.
It is much more difficult to break my bad habits and thoughts to make a lifestyle change. Stop having a couple glasses of wine every night?? Nope, that would require me to make a change that would be uncomfortable. Actually sweating at the gym, that means putting in real effort. It is so much easier to just do the bare minimum. But that also means that I will never see the results that would but me back in clothes that make me feel great.
Why this conundrum? We know yet we don’t do. It’s like insanity. But it is really just operating from within our comfort zone.
Sitting on the nail is being stuck. Living with relationships that don’t serve you. A career that you despise. Debt piled so high you can’t ever imagine ever saving a dollar in your lifetime. Under earning because you are too afraid to ask for a raise. Living with the extra 15 pounds that you’ve been carrying around for nearly 2 decades.
Being comfortable even if unhappy protects you from facing these fears and breaking out of your comfort zone.
Do we really want life to continuously happen to us or do we want to make life happen?
When will it be painful enough to get off that nail?