A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron is an amazing book.
The story looks at relationships through the truly insightful eyes of man’s best friend. This beautiful story made me smile, cry, and laugh out loud. As I read, I started paying closer attention to my own emotions and looked at my pets in an entirely new light. This is a heartwarming and uplifting story, and I found that as the dog sought to discover its purpose, I contemplated my own.
This book was filled with wisdom. I could easily share several lessons I learned from reading this. But there is one particular section that really hit home for me.
A little background of the story to this point:
Ellie is a German Shepard. Jakob was a search and rescue police officer who had adopted and trained Ellie. Jakob was shot and injured on the job and no longer able to work. Maya had taken over as Ellie’s new trainer, and brought her home to live with her. Maya was a little overweight, but she loved Ellie and had developed a bond with her.
(Note: Some of the text has been omitted. Passage can be found starting on pg. 221)
“I’m thinking of resigning from the program,” Maya confessed in a rush. “I just can’t keep up… someone else would probably be better.”
“You can’t do that,” Jakob said.
“I’m just not cut out for it physically, Jakob,” Maya said. “I’ve been trying, but it is just too hard.”
“Too hard.” Jakob glared at her until Maya shrugged and looked away… “What about how hard it would be on Ellie? Doesn’t that matter?”
“Of course it matters.”
“You’re saying you’re not willing to work.”
“I’m saying I’m not cut out for this, Jakob! I don’t have what it takes inside.”
“When I was shot the first time, my shoulder was so messed up, I had to learn to use it all over again. I went to physical therapy every day, and there was this little two-pound weight on a pulley and that thing hurt… and my wife was in her final round of chemo. More than once, I wanted to give up. It was too hard.” Jakob turned his head and blinked at Maya. “But Susan was dying. And she never gave up, not until the very end. And if she could keep going, I knew I had to. Because it’s important. Because failure isn’t an option if success is just a matter of more effort. I know it’s difficult, Maya. Try harder.”
I think this story hit so close to home for me, because I have been there. I have been in Maya’s shoes. I have felt like somebody else would be better than me. I have felt like quitting when things got hard. I have used an arsenal of excuses about why I couldn’t do something or why I wasn’t good enough.
In the story Jakob was there to teach Maya to stop listening to her own negative self-talk. He called her out on her excuses and gave her inspiration to try harder.
Someone Else is Better
For much of my life I’ve struggled with perfectionism. This is a really hard mindset to overcome. It is also a very limiting mindset. I had a hard time going outside of my comfort zone because someone might realize that I wasn’t perfect. In some cases, the fear of failing was so paralyzing that I wouldn’t even try. Someone else would be better, smarter, prettier, more qualified, [insert adjective here]…
What I’ve come to realize is that yes, there is someone else better. In fact, there will always be someone else smarter than me, more qualified than me, prettier than me, and more talented than me. And that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try. It doesn’t mean that I won’t do a great job. And it certainly doesn’t mean I am a failure just because I fail when I try something new.
So yes, there probably is someone else “better.” If you wanted to use that as an excuse, I’m going to play Jakob for a moment and say sorry, that’s not a good enough reason to quit. Who know’s how amazing you will be if you show up and work hard. You might be the perfect person for the job in the long run, even if someone else might temporarily look “better.”
We all feel this one don’t we. I really like my comfort zone. It’s nice and comfortable. The truth is that it’s hard to go outside our comfort zone. It’s so much easier to stay where it is familiar. Whenever we venture outside our comfort zone it will be met with resistance. Growing takes work and effort.
“Most things aren’t impossible, most people just give up too soon.” – Joel Runyon
The thing is, it’s hard for everyone. There are always reasons to give up and obstacles to overcome. The ones who find success are the ones who didn’t quit when things got hard.
What stories do we tell ourselves? Do we blame other people or the environment for why we don’t perform well? Can we easily come up with a reason why we can’t or shouldn’t do something? Do we engage in negative self-talk and tell ourselves that we can’t or are not capable of doing something?
I remember reading an article several years ago that talked about how when we are told something about ourselves repeatedly, even if it isn’t true we start to believe it. Well, the same thing is true about our self-talk. If we tell ourselves we can’t do something, whether or not it is actually true, eventually we’ll start to believe it.
“I realized the power that my thoughts had over my abilities, and how by taking small steps to push myself outside my comfort zone, I was able to completely change how I thought of myself.” – Michelle Kirsch
Next time you find yourself making excuses, think about why. Are you afraid? Are you stepping outside your comfort zone? Is it hard? Are you learning?
Growth is a good thing. But it requires a lot of effort and it is so much easier not to extend extra effort. It is natural to come up with excuses about why there is no need to work so hard. Only you have the power to choose what you will do, and what you will believe about yourself.
Truth of a Friend
In the story it was Jakob who told Maya not to quit. He knew she could do it. He had faith in her and he told her the hard truth.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6
Such wise words. Friends are a wonderful source of love and support. It is so important to talk with your friends and family. Talk about your hopes and dreams, the obstacles you are facing, and what’s holding you back. Your true friends will tell you the hard truth. If you are talking yourself out of doing something good, they will call you out, but they have your best interest in mind. They will also support you and be your cheerleaders on your journey.
“You never fail until you stop trying” – Albert Einstein
If We Can’t Change for Us, Sometimes We Will For Someone Else
For whatever reason, and believe me there are several reasons, sometimes we can’t or won’t change for ourselves. But when push comes to shove, we will make a needed change for someone else because we love them.
In the story Maya changed for Ellie. I know I have changed for my boys. Sometimes knowing that our changed behavior will have a positive effect on someone else and that our lack of change will have a negative effect is motivation enough to do the hard work.
I do believe that lasting, long term change needs to come from within, from an internal desire to change. But sometimes the first step can be motivated by a desire in someone else’s behalf. Then as the change starts to happen, we can embrace it, internalize it, and finish because it has become something that we want for ourselves.
I recommend this book to all animal fans, it will change how you look at your pets and yourself. It will help you treasure the bond between man and their furry best friends.
- Cameron, W. B. (2010). A Dog’s Purpose A Novel for Humans. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates. p. 221-222.