I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” and its sequel, not because I was unhappy but to see if they contained any nuggets of wisdom about how to enhance my happiness. There were quite a few, but one has had a particular impact on me. Rubin put together her personal Twelve Commandments, and the first “and most important” is Be Gretchen.
What does this mean? It means accept, even embrace, everything that makes you who you are, the good, the bad, and the inexplicable. Examine how you live your life, and take note of how much of that time you are being true to who you really are.
Kay Laurence, one of the dog trainers I most admire, talks about “foundation behaviors.” She says that we cannot train strong behaviors in our dogs until we understand which behavior is the foundation for what we wish to train, and ensure that the foundation behavior is strong first. For example, the foundation behavior for ‘walk politely on leash’ is ‘stand quietly by my side.’ If the dog cannot do that, how can you expect to teach him to walk at your side and maintain position as yours changes?
I think that “Be Gretchen,” or in my case, “Be Dixie” is a foundation behavior. If I don’t understand and accept who I really am, how can I make changes in my life that will be of benefit to me? If I imagine myself to be something I’m not, through wishful thinking or through fear, any changes I make are built on a bad foundation, and are very unlikely to be successful.
Some things are easier to accept about oneself than others. I have been a ‘dog trainer’ for many years, but when I break down the aspects of ‘dog training’ what I find is that I don’t actually enjoy training dogs. I do enjoy educating dog owners. This is an important distinction to know when planning my professional future. I would be much happier writing educational materials, articles, even books about living with dogs than I would be if I tried to set up a dog training business.
I am working on making more time to do the things that I feel are truly “Dixie,” because that is when I am thoroughly happy.
The other side of that coin: “…to be Gretchen means to let go of all the things that I am not — to acknowledge what I don’t encompass.” And it’s important to accept that it’s okay, those things just aren’t a part of who I am. I will never be a person with fashion flair; I am happiest, Dixiest, in jeans or shorts and a comfortable T-shirt. I will never be a coordinated swimmer, a math whiz, mechanically able. I would like to be all of those things, but striving to achieve them would be like swimming against the current. Letting them go frees me to focus on what comes naturally to me, what brings me joy.
Are you being You?