You know that old Cherokee parable about the two wolves? A grandfather is telling his grandson about the two wolves fighting inside all of us. The good wolf embodies kindness, bravery, and love. The bad wolf represents greed, hatred, and fear. The grandson asks, “which one wins?” The grandfather replies, “the one you feed.”
I’ve loved this story for a long time, but always thought about it in broad strokes, like good verses evil. I’ve been realizing lately it applies to every little decision, and that it is those little decisions that are necessary for lasting change.
Want to be a more content person? Feed the gratitude wolf. Maybe start a gratitude journal, practice meditation because it helps us be more present to our beautiful lives right in front of us, tell the people you care about that you appreciate them and why, stop and pay attention to a sunset.
Want to feel better? Feed that wolf, but that doesn’t mean make 138 health and nutrition resolutions right this minute (like I am prone to do). The lasting change comes from starting very small, seeing some results from a tiny change, and allowing the good wolf to gain more energy and strength for the next step. I tend to fall into the all-or-nothing trap telling myself that I already ate three cookies, so I might as well just go off the wagon for the rest of the day, for example. The image of the good wolf really helps me because I can feed her with some good choices, even if they’re tiny, like eating a big ass salad for dinner or taking a short walk or going to bed a bit earlier. It keeps me from the perfectionist all-or-nothing thinking because it is worth feeding the good wolf regardless of how the rest of the day has gone.
You don’t want to get caught up too much in this and beat yourself up because that defeats the purpose. I don’t really think too much about the bad wolf. I try to focus on feeding the good wolf, and I try to keep my changes small and incremental.
Some tiny habits I’ve been working on lately in case you need some ideas:
- Water on my nightstand
- I’ve been trying a longer gratitude practice (ten things instead of my usual three).
- At work, our office is on the first floor, so I created a rule that I only use the bathroom on the third floor to do a little less sitting throughout the day.
- I tell myself that I do ten push-ups a day. If I get more than that in, great, but if not, I won by getting in ten.
- Leaving my phone back in our closet when I get home or when I need to focus. I read this study, and it totally rings true for me.
- A quick sun salutation right when I wake up.
- Five minutes of meditation at some point during the day. I’ve tried this before, and it hasn’t stuck because I started with ten or twenty minutes. But five minutes is a great start, and I notice a difference with even that short of an amount of time. I like to use this app if you’re looking for ideas to help you get started.
Pat yourself on the back today for little ways you’re feeding your good wolf – and then share some with the rest of us in the comments!