In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I shared the old Native American parable of “the wolf you feed” and how these different “wolves” show up in our lives and organizations impacting energy, mindset and results. In the final part of this series, I offer some more ways to get into action and make shifts that will serve you, and those you care about, at work, at home, and everywhere in between. Enjoy.
So who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?
Here’s the thing; we all have our bad wolves. And we all are prone to feed them from time to time…after all, we are human. (Of course, if this is not you, please email me and we’ll bottle your secret.) We all have the good and the bad in us. That said, I’ve noticed that what can be even more dangerous than feeding the bad wolf, is denying that one actually has one, or that they fear having one. For being afraid of the big bad wolf, and resisting him, doesn’t make him go away, it just makes him stronger. (I’m reminded of the saying “what you resist persists.”)
So the invitation is actually to, rather than resist it, give yourself honest space to feed the big bad wolf and feel the emotions that go with it. Lean into it, be present, and give yourself permission to have your feelings. And then decide what you want to do with them. Which wolf will you continue to feed? What action do you need to take for yourself before you can feed the right wolf? What do you need? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking these questions and giving oneself a bit of care and compassion without self-judgment or blame. Be conscious, be real, be honest with yourself and be intentional, and ultimately you’ll make choices that will serve you best.
What the heck do I do with it all now?
Given that we generally have a default wolf who seems to get the food first…Which wolf is yours? What’s the impact on your energy, your life, and the people you lead? What have you found the gifts to be? When one wolf dominates the other, what are the common themes of the stories you tell yourself? Reflect on what’s happening in your life right now, personally or professionally, and consider which wolf you’re feeding. Truly. How’s it working for you? If you have a hard time exploring this, you may want to look for unhealed wounds, grudges, or any area where you get that “spark of ick” to locate which wolves may be lined up for supper. And finally, know that one of the quickest ways to shift gears, and to create new emotions, behaviors, and outcomes, is simply the awareness of what wolf you are choosing to feed.
So, how do you integrate the concepts of parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series to make them more concrete in your own life and organization? First, make a “promise to self” to be conscious of the “wolf “and to be at choice about how you want to be with him. Next, if it resonates, share this article with those you care about, invite them into the conversation. Finally…and here’s the fun part…get to work.
Beyond awareness, there are several things you can play with to support yourself. Here are some of the best beliefs and actions I know of personally, that you can take to shift wolves:
1. Practice gratitude: What and who are you grateful for? Even the littlest things and for the little acts. Write them down, let them know.
2. Generosity: Do something great for someone else. Get focused on something bigger than you. Get out of your own way. Give. Give. Give. Make someone else feel great.
3. Tell the truth: Have a truth telling session. No one’s looking. Just give it to yourself gently, and with a kick in the boots if needed. What’s going on? Where are you falling down? Where are you feeling insecure? Where are you not showing up (for yourself or for others)? What are you afraid of?
4. Name it: Name the wolf. Name the feeling. Name your next step to shift. Gosh this saves a ton of time and energy!
5. Try something different: This bad wolf does not need to get the best of you. If you find yourself focusing on the bad wolf, and even making him a bad habit, it may be time to focus on what feeding the good wolf would look like, and simply to try it out.
6. Check your self care: How are you feeding yourself? Mentally, physically, and spiritually? These all have an impact on our mindset.
7. Ask for support: Take care of yourself. Bring a trusted colleague, friend, coach, etc. into the conversation. Lean on your confidants. If it progresses or gets worse, or you feel stuck, as always do what you need to do to take care of yourself (seek the help of a licensed professional, therapist, etc. to support you.)
Once you’ve identified your wolf, taking ownership is half the battle on this path of creating positive energy and good results. Taking action to make peace with your wolf, and finding ways to feed the one you truly wish to, with behaviors to support you, will take you further up the path. Is it easy? Not always, but what worthwhile thing is always easy? I’d say that one of the most powerful characteristics of leadership is the ability to identify which wolf we’re feeding, to use that information to make productive change if necessary, to intentionally feed the right wolf, and to help those we lead do the same…even in the most difficult of times.
In close, as I circle back to the original parable at the beginning of this article in part one, my mind goes to forgiveness and gratitude and how difficult it can be to “come from” this place when you have the evil wolf over for a seven course meal. Yet at the same time, how those two very things can summon up the good wolf. Ultimately the good wolf is stronger. The bad wolf may just feel stronger, but truly it is not. It just comes from those tiny spaces in us that let fear and insecurity and hurt shade our perspectives. Knowing this shifts the power and perspective of what it takes to feed the right wolf, and I’m reminded of the Mahatma Gandhi quote “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Do you have it in you to feed the right wolf? I believe we all do.