Which Wolf Will You Feed?

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A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”The grandfather quietly replies, “The one you feed.”(From here.)I love and share this parable because it so beautifully shares a lesson I know, but have to work hard to live: what we focus on matters.And what we focus on is a choice.Although stories like this are inspiring, this one actually has science to back it up. The thoughts we have, our decisions, our habits, all come back to one process: neural pathways in our brain.When we entertain a thought, make a decision, reinforce a habit or behaviour, we strengthen that pathway. We feed that wolf. Most of the time, we do so with tiny morsels.Every time I see a cup on the counter and don’t put it in the dishwasher? Procrastination pathway.Every time I know I have had enough coffee, yet still pour another cup (because coffee)? Caffeine addiction pathway.Every time I think “I should really meditate,” and don’t? Procrastination pathway—again.Every time someone elbows me on the bus and I assume they're just a jerk who doesn't care about my personal space? Assuming the worst pathway.Every time I see a cup on the counter and put it in the dishwasher? Tidy pathway.Every time I know I’ve had enough coffee and switch to water instead? Healthy pathway.Every time I think “I should really meditate,” and sit my butt down and open Headspace? Self-care pathway.Every time someone elbows me on the bus and I assume they might not know they're doing so and ask them to move up? Assuming the best pathway.Of course, some of the wolf-feeding moments we encounter are more high-stakes than this. Much more. But I use these examples because it’s the micro-wolves we encounter most often.I’ve found the more I feed the good wolf for micro-decisions, like not procrastinating about putting a cup in the dishwasher, the stronger that good wolf gets in other areas of my life.Someone has done something that’s left me feeling pissed off and hurt. Am I going to blame them for my feelings and stew? Or take ownership of myself and do something constructive in response? I’ve had a setback at work—a rejection. Am I going to get angry at the other person, while lamenting how unfair life is? Or, am I going to take what lessons I can from this experience and keep trying with other opportunities like this?I’m unhappy with my weight and fitness. Am I going to sit here feeling crappy about myself and letting my inner critic run all over this? Or, am I going to decide to take care of myself and do what I can when I can to feel healthier (not because I think I should, but because I want to)?It’s situations—and decisions—like these that end up defining our lives.So: which wolf will you feed? Further reading:Evolution, Growth, and Finding Your Golden Buddha & Rewriting Our Stories with Sas Petherick

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Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash