Picture a slow-paced Saturday afternoon. As you and your faithful canine companion meander aimlessly through the dog park greeting other pets, something catches your dog’s eye.
It’s a squirrel.
The critter’s fluffy tail twitches in a short, rhythmic code. Your dog interprets this tease as a game of you-can’t-catch-me.
The pursuit begins.
The squirrel speeds through a patch of tall grass, leaving your dog to wonder if he’s moving in the right direction. The tail twitches again. This time it’s a flag, rising high above the greenery.
The pursuit continues.
Your dog races at top speed to pounce on the furry nuisance. As your pet gains ground, the squirrel makes a stealthy turn to what he assumes is certain freedom: a grove of trees.
Your dog follows. The squirrel dives into the forest, eyes the perfect tree and scurries up the bark with little effort. There he lingers on a limb, watching and waiting.
As the dog enters the trees, his nose sniffs hard to track the squirrel. To your surprise, your dog claws at the base of a tree and finds that his toenails have more grip than realized. He stretches upward and manages to hoist himself onto a low branch, gaining access to a staircase of increasingly sturdy boughs.
Your dog is climbing a tree.
You marvel in his feat and start to cheer him on, because really, this is unusual and it’s going to make a great story to tell your friends. You snap a few celebratory photos to mark the unexpected success.
Then the dog stops. One exasperated bark fills the air.
You look to your dog, and notice he’s eye to eye with the squirrel — that’s swaying on the branch of a nearby tree.
You shake your head in disbelief. After all that, the dang dog went up the wrong tree! As you help your pet to the ground, the squirrel leaps from limb to limb, twitching his tail to say goodbye as he sinks deeper into the forest.
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Are You Barking up the Wrong Tree?
Sometimes we chase what we think we want. We push our way through obstacles and work to get back on the right path.
Then, when things seem to align, we’re celebrated by others. Our efforts become accomplishments to onlookers. We go with the flow.
But did that success align with our purpose?
It’s easy to sit in a tree and listen to praise, but what takes courage is climbing back down and admitting that although you succeeded in one way, it wasn’t what you actually needed or wanted.
Are you chasing the squirrel of productivity, acceptance and societal norms simply because it’s in front of you? It’s exciting? It’s easy?
There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time and energy on a goal only to find out that it never truly aligned with your deepest intentions and overall purpose.
I encourage you to mentally step off the intended, expected path for a moment and reflect on what it is you truly want out of your days, weeks and years. Many of my readers are business-driven professionals who, like me, are always working on the next stride.
Sometimes we need to pause and reflect.
Have you been chasing the squirrel for so long, blindly maneuvering all the obstacles, and accepting the aligned praise that you’re barking up the wrong tree?
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Note: This post was last updated on December 16, 2022.