My 2-year-old dog, Birdie, needs to walk at least five miles a day to be calm, relaxed and happy.
My wife and I have concluded that the best way to make this work is with lots of walking first thing in the morning. I’ve been taking her 3 miles right when I wake up, and my wife takes her another mile or so when she walks our youngest daughter to school.
I’ve chosen to walk the same route nearly every day. This makes the timing predictable, and it also helps for training purposes (especially if I let her off leash).
A lot of days, the walk/run is great: the air is cool, dew is on the grass, it’s quiet and beautiful, and I feel lucky to be out.
And some days it feels like drudgery. Not only the same walk as yesterday, but the same walk I’ll do tomorrow, and the day after that, until forever. And then I’m bummed and a little overwhelmed.
The good news is that this thought—“am I really going to be doing this same walk every morning for the next decade?”—gets obliterated immediately when I find myself, say, in some high grass with Birdie, and I start watching her: nose twitching like crazy, tail wagging, searching each tuft of grass and thicket of plants for a squirrel, chipmunk, bunny, or turtle—or just to figure out what that great smell is.
We walked through this high grass yesterday, and we will tomorrow, of course.
But this smell, right here and right now, is new and fascinating.
Where I’m getting things totally wrong is my “this walk” construct: an artificial mental shorthand that incorrectly equates today’s walk with yesterday’s and with tomorrow’s.
This is nothing less than lazy thinking by my lazy mind. In my effort to simplify the world, I completely disconnect from the present, and completely miss what is really going on.
This mistake is easy to make, and it’s the reason why we lose momentum and enthusiasm around the work we set out to do.
You can see the conundrum: there is literally no task that we can master without long-term, repeated work.
This means that we need a mindset that will allow us to walk the path of mastery.
This mindset doesn’t begin with commitment or work ethic.
It begins with remembering to stay present and curious.
When we are present, when we are curious, we can see our reality anew. We are constantly in a new moment and always exploring. We are forever on the cusp of discovering what is different about this specific thing at this moment of this day.
Even, and especially, if that different thing is us.