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If you want to understand how Dog ended up doing what he did, you should read what happened previously in my inspiration How Cat and Dog should follow the example of Mouse, a contemporary fable.

So now Dog had a fair insight into his problem. He could clearly see what was going wrong, but it did not really result in any constructive action. He had to change tactics, and unwittingly (after all, how could he possibly have known) he followed the example of his room mate Mouse.

This he knew for sure: he sincerely longed for a harmonic, even loving cohabitation with Cat. That was the change he passionately wanted to achieve. He longed for an animal playmate, an ally in the midst of this pack of human creatures. In practice he had not been very successful – quite the contrary – and his relationship with Cat was very unpredictable.

If he was very honest, he had to admit that it frightened him to do the opposite of what he was doing now – in other words, not to go chasing after Cat when the feline walked through the living room. When he gave it some further thought, he realised that it was mainly Cat’s movement that triggered him – especially when Cat moved swiftly.

He really tried to imagine what would happen if he would not follow his dog instincts blindly. The thought alone made him slightly queasy. After all, he belonged to the Border Collie breed, he was a proper herding dog. It was in his genes. If you saw movement out of the corner of your eyes – say a sheep wandering away from the herd – you jump up immediately and go after it, without thinking. The pride and honour of the breed was at stake – at least, that is what he had always thought. And it was exactly this instinct that was causing these issues with a cat, of all creatures.

His conscious goal to change was competing strongly with a much more subconscious and apparently stronger impulse. And the subconscious cannot be fought or changed. Because of his sharp mind, he had come to that insight after long thought.

So what now? He decided to gather some more information first to test if his assumptions were correct – if it was really true that a Border Collie can only respect himself when he chases after everything that moves in his line of vision.

Firstly, he made a conscious effort to see Cat in a different light – no longer as an annoying creature, but as a peer with his own right of being, just like him. He just needed to flip a switch in his head. That seemed to work quite nicely. Nothing catastrophic happened because he changed his mind. He was also not ashamed. His owners still loved him just as much. He even thought that he saw Cat looking at him affably, rather than in his usual dark way.

Then he had lain down a few times close to Cat, quietly. That had been most exciting as he feared it might have ended badly, with Cat hissing and growling again – but that had not happened. His assumptions about dogs versus cats proved to be unfounded – check.

Now only the big test was left: not to chase after a moving cat. The previous two actions had changed his perspective in such a way that he felt fine about that test, and also confident that he could change, slowly but surely. So his goal suddenly seemed very close.


Did you find this fable – and the previous one – inspiring? Do you see goals for change for yourself, that you cannot seem to realise? There is hope. Together we can map what is keeping you from making permanent changes. Just like Dog you will be ready to test your big assumptions with small actions. These can be very different issues, on a personal or professional level. Even teams or organisations can be faced with a serious immunity problem that stops real change from happening. Contact me for a free session and make your own breakthrough come true.

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Once upon a time there lived a mouse, a cat and a dog in the same house. They were basically stuck with each other.

Cat had been trying to catch Mouse for several months, since he assumed that was what his owners expected – and to be frank he wouldn’t say no to a tasty mouse either. But despite his efforts, he hadn’t managed to catch Mouse, who was always one step ahead of him. He had tried everything, so he could not be accused of being lazy. In fact he ran all over the place from the break of dawn until late at night, everywhere he thought Mouse could appear. He couldn’t make head nor tail of it. A normal cat would catch mice galore, by the simple fact of being a cat – that’s how it had always been. And he had never encountered any problems with catching the relatives of Mouse. He had simply killed them off, one by one. But this last one was a survivor. And then there was this annoying and clumsy dog creature that kept getting in his way. He basically ruined everything.

Dog had not been in the house that long yet. Cat had been there much longer – exactly how much he didn’t know – but judging by the condescending behaviour of that useless creature, it must have been very long. Dog in turn had a hard time not chasing after Cat. His whole dog being yearned to do so, but he knew it irritated his owners to no end. So he tried his best to suppress his animal instincts and please his owners like a model pack animal. Meanwhile he had grasped how to learn and suppress stuff, including the urge to chase after cats. As a Border Collie he was quite smart, after all. But no matter how many insights he had gathered, when Cat suddenly came parading haughtily through the living room – knowing full well he was there -, he couldn’t control himself and chased after the irritating creature. His owners were not happy at all, judging by the way they shouted at him, and he was quite disappointed with himself for not being able to control his outbursts. He had worked it out so clearly in his head – so why couldn’t he stop chasing after Cat?

Mouse felt completely unwanted in the house, but he had to make the best of it and in order to survive he tried to avoid Cat. So far that had worked quite well. Mouse had taken the time to quietly study the comings and goings of his room mates, especially those of Cat. He had been observing and reflecting. He had seen his relatives fall victim to Cat one by one. They had also wanted to survive, but what had they done instead? They had gone after that piece of cheese or breadcrumb in the kitchen, taking enormous risks when knowing full well that Cat could appear out of nowhere. They foolishly followed their urge to eat, blind to the danger. He had observed all of it very carefully and mapped the typical mouse behaviour with his small but exquisite brain. He had gained insight in his own urge and where it came from – as long as he could remember his family’s motto had been ‘better a crumb in the belly than 10 on the counter’. So he understood how his relatives had come to pass away prematurely.

He had also observed Cat and discovered patterns in the animal’s behaviour. Using those insights he had started doing small tests, with the purpose of gathering information. He would for instance only come out of his hiding hole behind the fridge when he heard the noise of the dog chasing after the cat, accompanied by the shouting of the humans in the house. All eyes were clearly aimed elsewhere during those moments. At first it was quite hard to go against his family values and to wait for the right moment, especially when his belly was rumbling and the crumbs smelled so heavenly. It really didn’t feel right. Could he still be a worthy descendant of his family when acting this way? But his tests were always successful and slowly Mouse started to change. He started to realise and feel that being a mouse did not necessarily mean that you blindly went for the crumbs. And so he managed to survive amidst all the danger.

What is the moral of this story? Cat and Dog are each in their own way the victim of their immunity to change. Cat tries to reach his goal by taking action blindly and doing what he thinks every normal cat does. He doesn’t look beyond the obvious and has a serious blind spot.

Dog does have a good view on what is needed to change his nature. But it’s all in his head and he keeps running around in circles, he has never done any tests to see if his insights are right and what they do to him. Mouse did manage to change – for him it was also a real matter of life or death.

To summarise: action without insight is as fruitless as insight without action – or how Cat and Dog should follow the example of Mouse. Next time: how Dog manages to change his behaviour successfully.

© Anne De Smet

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When your teenage son or daughter is brought home in a police van, this is not usually an occasion to celebrate and you fervently hope none of the neighbours noticed. When the same happens to your adolescent dog, you find it amusing -to say the least- and you enjoy telling the story in full detail.

So we found it quite hilarious when a police officer led Django to our front door, meek as a lamb. Mister Django had only recently discovered and ‘sampled’ the females of his kind – to his great appreciation -, and he had been out looking for more. He had found the weak spot in our garden fence and gone off exploring.

When seen from his perspective, you cannot really blame him. Even I sympathise that as a living creature he wants to move freely just like us humans. He had already escaped a few times that week, but had always come back of his own accord. But that day he hadn’t, and my search in the neighbourhood turned up nothing.

Finally it appeared that he had been ‘paying a visit’ to people in the next street, who also have a dog. They didn’t know him, so had called the police who could trace him back to us through his chip implant. We got away with a warning and have promptly mended the gap in our garden fence.

The incident reminds me of how organised and controlled we adult humans really are, and how we desperately try to contain everything within certain limits. This is not how we come into the world however. Until the age of four, children are convinced of their own strength and heroism (I know this for a fact, with a grandson of that age who is wonderfully inspiring) and often childhood is a time of a careless freedom and endless possibilities. It is not really surprising that as adolescents we start a final rebellion as if we are perfectly aware of what awaits us in adult life.

When we reach the age of adulthood we seem to have internalised all those responsibilities, expectations and limitations – in what is called adult and responsible behaviour. As if the free creatures that we once were are forgotten. When we do not find a balance in this, the price to pay can be high.

In my coaching practice I meet quite a few people who struggle with this. This translates into feelings of not being ‘enough’, of being scared and feeling locked up, in often unwittingly wanting to comply to certain standards and expectations.

As coach I can help you to find back the light and strong person within yourself and to create a beautiful balance between the lightness of your inner child and the maturity of your grown-up self.

It is up to you to take the first step and all the following ones. I realise that this takes a lot of courage and investment in yourself. But the result is priceless. Read the testimonials of a few clients on my website to feel what a coaching journey can do for you. A sample session is free, with the additional bonus of a warm welcome by Django at the front door.

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Winter has arrived and don’t we know it! Everywhere I go, winter is all people talk about – mostly in negative terms. About the days being gloomy, cold and wet, how it is best to stay inside if you can, ..

As you know by now, I don’t really have a choice. Good or bad weather, the daily walk with Django goes ahead. His boundless energy needs an outlet. And he obviously doesn’t complain about winter – that dog of ours never loses his enthusiasm.

So today, wrapped in warm clothes, with my hiking boots to trample through the mud and gloves to prevent icy fingers,  I’m on my way up the ‘mountain’ with the dog. Once on top the world seems frozen in a still mist. The familiar cows are no longer in the meadow, the trees have lost their final leaves. Their dark silhouettes contrast against the grey snowy sky.

The stillness feels deathlike, mysterious. The leaves of the trees and plants are dying. The lively and fresh colours have been replaced by shades of brown. Some plants have gone completely underground, as if they never were. The seeds of summer have fallen into the ground, now cold and frozen, covered in snow in some places.

But appearances deceive. This is a necessary phase in nature’s cycle of life in this place on earth. This phase of apparent dying is needed to create new life in spring.

This realisation helps me to appreciate this season (and not complain). The wonder of nature and its endless creative power fills me with admiration.

Some animals go into hibernation and we humans also traditionally slow down towards the end of the year. Everything turns inwards, also literally – we stay inside, at home, cherishing the warmth. It is also the period of looking back – the traditional end-of-year programmes on radio and TV about the highs and lows of the past year. We also look forward when making our resolutions and wishing each other the best for the New Year.

I again plan to consciously create a new Word-of-the-Year. The past year my word was ‘focus’. Looking back it served me well, as some kind of well-lit beacon. If you want to freshen up on this practice, you can read my Inspiration again. Or you can contact me for a coaching session on this topic.

I wish you all a wonderfully decelerating end of year. Cherish yourself and your loved ones in these moments, look back on what is past with lots of compassion and take a moment to contemplate how you want to be in 2018, in your life and in your world.

See you next year!

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Never in my life have I seen, felt and heard so many geese formations flying across the sky as this year. The fact that nowadays I am spending more time outdoors obviously has a lot to do with this – it is not as if there are more of these formations than before, it is just that I notice them now. My daily walks with the dog come with many perks (but that you already knew).

It is a formidable and powerful feeling to see those mighty birds cross the sky in a beautiful V-formation. Django chases after them madly, as if their energy is catching.

I did some research – I cannot help myself – and apparently the geese fly in V-formation during their yearly migration as it conserves more of their energy compared to flying in a single line. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. These feathered creatures basically put aerodynamics into practice without a university degree.

Apparently the birds in front have the easiest job. The ‘lift’ caused by the formation creates a negative pressure area above the birds. This negative pressure sucks the air upwards, so the birds in front experience a lifting air stream. The birds alternate position during flight, to allow each in turn some rest. During migration the geese also communicate with each other. The geese in the back urge those in front to keep up the speed.

How the geese decide who flies at the head of the formation is a well-kept secret, as so many things in the animal and plant kingdom. We humans, with our big brains, can only guess.

Without fully understanding the mystery of their behaviour, the metaphor of the flying wild geese provides many beautiful insights.

  • Our classic image of a leader is someone who leads the troops from the front, with authority and a firm hand. The geese teach us that leadership can take quite different forms: each individual in the group – and not just the one in front – is a leader, with his own role and responsibilities. You can lead from the front, from the side, from the back and from within. And the group clearly benefits. They demonstrate this in an inspiring way.
  • We often don’t bother or are too proud to accept or ask for help, or to delegate. We prefer to appear independent and strong, because asking for help is putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. The geese give up their leadership position in a very smart and timely manner. They know better.
  • Like the geese in formation urge the ones in front to keep going, we can also encourage and compliment each other, which we don’t do often enough. It gives people wings to fly, as the jargon has it.

As for the mystery behind their striking behaviour, maybe it is not even that mysterious. I wrote about it in a previous blog ‘Who is the King of the creation?’. Someone who researches this quite extensively is the cell biologist Rupert Sheldrake (his work is considered as quite controversial by the so-called serious scientists).

He specifically focuses on those questions for which there is no answer (yet), like how ants behave and communicate, how pigeons find their way back, how dogs ‘know’ when their owner is about to come home, etc.. His books and talks are highly recommended when you are interested in learning more about this.

In any case, it is simply inspiring to watch the animal and plant world. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”, our friend Einstein said.

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