The Importance Of Retreating To Your Dog House

Once again, I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Heeter of The Wild Institute speak, however this time it was at the ITA Fall Collaborative in San Diego and the message was slightly different.

Chris still spoke about the importance and courage of bringing all of who you are to all of what you do every day.  She shared familiar stories about the lessons she has learned from her sled dogs: everybody has gifts, one’s motivation and needs change over time, the importance of body language, etc.

But she also added one additional, and extremely important, lesson that she recently learned since I last heard her speak in August of 2017…The Importance of Retreating to Your Dog House.

For many of us when we think of a “dog house” one of the following images comes to mind:

  1. The place that your significant other is deemed when he/she has done wrong.
  2. A small, wooden home that is made for you furry friend, so he/she can have his own place to retreat to outside when the weather isn’t ideal or he needs some time alone.

Ironically, both scenarios have a similar message…Everyone needs a place to retreat to when they need a moment to regroup.

For many dog owners, such as myself, we don’t own an actual dog house, so our dogs probably retreat to either the comfort of their bed or crate. Regardless, the reasoning and concept are the same – our dog needs a time out. Whether it’s because the kids are too loud, he’s not fond of the current company or he’s just tired, your dog actively decides to go to his happy place and leave the rest of us until he is ready to once again join in, more times than not, with his tail wagging and ready to play.

Humans, on the other hand, have a tendency not to retreat to our happy place when we have had enough.  Instead, we convince ourselves that we can just push through and continue to work through the situation.  When continuing to work through, several things happen: our actual productivity is reduced, we make more careless errors, our patience dwindles and we often let our frustration out to the wrong person at the wrong time. At the end of the day, we are definitely not ready to re-join our group with our proverbial tales wagging and ready to play.

So why do we continue to push and push and push, when we know the best thing for us would be to take a quick mental break? Pick a reason:

  1. The culture at my company is 24/7.
  2. I’m worried that if I take a break I will lose focus and be further behind.
  3. What if someone sees me taking a break?
  4. I don’t have the time to take a break!
  5. I’m scared to look like I’m not working.

Regardless of your reason, studies have shown that no one is ever productive for 4 hours in a row! And more times than not, no one is standing in your way of taking a break but you.

So the next time you feel a bit overwhelmed at work or you realize you’ve been on the phone since 9 am and all you’ve put into your body has been coffee, take a cue from our furry friends, and please do any of the following:

  1. Take a walk around the block and get some fresh air.
  2. Hang up the phone, turn off your computer screen, turn your cell phone face down, sit in your chair, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths.
  3. Close your office door, pick one song from your favorite playlist and listen to the entire song – feel free to even dance around if the mood strikes you.
  4. If you are in a cubicle or open office setting, grab your headphones, pick one song from your favorite playlist and listen to the entire song – and still feel free to dance around of the mood strikes you!
  5. Pick anything that makes you happy (for me that would be the beach on any given day), close your eyes and think about it for 2-5 minutes, envisioning yourself there.
  6. Speckle within your daily calendar, 5 minute blocks of time where you can stop, assess how your day is going and redirect as needed.

Trust me, I understand that we are all busy and trying to perpetually spin many plates, however sometimes the best way to speed up is to take a few moments to slow down.