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Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D.
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How to Keep Trying in the Face of Obstacles: Lessons from a Dog

By Lynne Gots, posted on August 13th, 2012.

My dog Baxter is at it again. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s crazy for vegetables, and he’ll do anything to get to the few gnarled green tomatoes and warty cucumbers in my pathetic garden. Given the opportunity, he’ll even go after the jalapeños. Nothing deters him—not the triple-reinforced plastic fencing, not the gates and makeshift barricades, not even the noxious sprays guaranteed to repel deer and other wildlife.

We could all take a page from Baxter’s book. I’d call it The Little Dog that Could. Watching him case the perimeter in search of a breach in the fortifications, I imagine him saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I KNOW I can!” until he breaks through, triumphant, and scarfs as much produce as he can before I drag him out by the collar.

Even when he snatches the only ripening tomato off the vine, I can’t help but admire his tenacity. Call it the unbridled optimism of the simple-minded, if you will, but I choose to see it as sheer determination. He never gives up.

Unlike Baxter, many of us humans tend to get discouraged when obstacles stand in our way. I’ve seen lots of recent college graduates (my own daughter included) who want to throw in the towel after ten, twenty, or fifty job applications meet with rejection—or worse, get no response at all. Of course it’s profoundly disheartening for a former academic superstar to find herself unemployed with no clear prospects for the future. But summoning the wherewithal to keep plugging away with no immediate rewards in sight is a life skill worth cultivating—and one with the potential to yield a far greater payoff than any entry-level job.

Being a dog has its advantages. I doubt Baxter has to deal with a running stream of self-defeating thoughts telling him he’s not smart enough or strong enough or young enough or canine enough to break through the fence. He’s surely not predicting he’ll never eat another tomato again. He just keeps digging and scratching away. Even getting his head stuck in the plastic netting hasn’t scared him off. He was back at it the very next day.

Yesterday I harvested the first tomatoes from my garden. I’m planning to enjoy them tonight with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a handful of my own homegrown basil.

And I’ll be sharing a few bites with Baxter.

 



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This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.

Contact Dr. Gots

202-331-1566

2440 M Street, NW
Suite 710
Washington, DC 20037

Email >

If you don't receive a response to an email from Dr. Gots in 48 hours, please call the office and leave a voicemail message.

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