Friday, August 14, 2015

Feeding the wolf...

Which wolf will you feed?
There’s a Cherokee parable in which a chief was teaching his grandson about life and the internal struggle we face between positive and negative thinking and actions. 

The chief described these as two wolves, a good wolf and a bad wolf, fighting for supremacy. The grandson asks “Which wolf will win?”, “The one you feed” the chief replies. 

I’ve written previously about the “re-wilding” movement, and the transformative effect that releasing keystone species (such as the wolf) can have on our degraded and over-controlled landscapes. It’s amazing, and it’s worth watching this video about what happened in Yellowstone National Park when they re-introduced wolves. It’s called a trophic cascade, and it increases the richness of an ecosystem.  
“Which wolf will win?”, “The one you feed” the chief replies. 
In my book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow, I wondered what the metaphorical equivalent to releasing wolves in our lives might be. I suggested that it might be something to do with setting our “wild” dreams free to change the landscape of our lives, to introduce a missing richness. 

Are we being authentic?
Without being as dramatic as the Cherokee chief’s parable, I think we do face an internal battle between the wolves of authenticity and inauthenticity. I’ve been reminded of this as I’ve been reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal book Flow, on the psychology of happiness. 

In this context, being authentic is about making life choices out of a rational evaluation of our own experience – it doesn’t necessarily matter what that choice is, so long as it’s an expression of what we genuinely feel or believe. 

By contrast, being inauthentic is about making life choices based on what we feel we ought to do, or what everyone else is doing, a bit like the character Emmet in the Lego Movie – initially at least, just living life according to the instructions he’s been given to be like everyone else. 

So the battle for authenticity is this: how can we really be the best expression of who we’ve been made to be, rather than conforming to what society or other people expect of us? It’s a big question, but in the end, like the parable, it probably comes down to which wolf you choose to feed. 

"I think we do face an internal battle between the wolves of authenticity and inauthenticity."
On our allotment I have been watching our pumpkins gradually grow over the last few months. We try to grow big pumpkins as we love carving them and I also like brewing pumpkin beer (something of a signature brew of mine these days). They’ve still got a few months to grow, but one of our secrets is planting them on top of a generous helping of well rotted Black Country pigeon poo – provided to us by a generous neighbouring plot holder, who has a friend who keeps pigeons (yes, people still keep pigeons in the 21st century). 

We love growing pumkins!
As big as our pumpkins have grown over the past few years (and our record weight is over four stone), that’s nothing compared to a Welsh chap who was featured on a TV gardening programme. He grows absolutely mammoth vegetables, and one of the reasons he’s so successful is the feed he regularly gives them when he’s watering them. 

By comparison, in our cold-frame in our garden are various seedlings that we enthusiastically planted in the spring but which we never quite managed to plant out on the allotment. These are now withered and dry due to lack of watering. 

"What seeds or dreams are growing in your life? Are these the things you really want to grow?" 
What seeds or dreams are growing in your life? Are these the things you really want to grow? Perhaps your authentic dreams remain in seed form, while what’s taken root is something unintentional and inauthentic – a weed. How we use our time and energy is a huge part of this battle for authenticity. Here’s a great quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: 

 “Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing. Like everything else, work and leisure can be appropriated for our needs. People who learn to enjoy their work, who do not waste free time, end up feeling that lives as a whole have become much more worthwhile.” 

Taking time to develop our skills in something we love, something authentically “us” is a way to feed the right wolf. In this way we can build a bridge, stone by stone, towards somewhere we really want to be – something that Jeff Goins and I discussed when I interviewed him recently. If we feel there’s a chasm between our dreams and our reality then we need to build a bridge, and give ourselves time to do that. 
"So which wolf are you feeding? Are you feeding fear or faith?"
So which wolf are you feeding? Are you feeding fear or faith? Doubt or determination? Application or apathy? Making bridges or bonds? 

Wherever you’re at, it’s never too late to feed the right wolf. And if you need some further encouragement, then these words from the book of Philippians are a good place to start: 

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Phil 4:8-9, Message translation).


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JOhn Adams said...

I'm feeding the desire to be taken seriously as a writer. Something I always wanted to do and now I'm inmy fourth decade I seem to be getting there (if I may make such a claim!). Your post has also reminded me that I must fertilise our potato plants!

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks John - don't forget your potato plants!