Goal setting

Today Mom and I showed Bodie about hiking. “It’s real slow,” I warned her. “But you get to stop and smell more stuff, so it’s fun in a different way.”

“It’s cool, I’m an expert at patience,” said Bodie. “I have to practice it all the time.”

“You’re the least patient dog I know! You’re always trying to get down the trail as fast as you can!”

“And what would you call that feeling when you want to move along but everyone else is going slower than you if not ‘patience’?”

I’m not so good with words, but I think that’s called ‘impatience.’ But I’m a smart guy, so I know never to point it out when someone thinks that they’re good at something that they actually stink at. So instead I asked, “What are you always in such a hurry to see anyway?”

“All the things, Dummy! There are long-eared cats, and ground cats, and feather cats, and tree cats, and other dogs, and peemail, and puddles…”

“But those things will still be there if you take your time. If you hurry, you might even miss them because they will be behind you. Don’t you want to just look for one thing and then find it?”

Bodie looked perturbed. “Are you saying I should look behind us too? Oh god, I hadn’t thought of that! I should be checking in all directions, not just front and sides! Oh no, Oscar! What if I missed something awesome because I forgot to look behind me?!”

On the way back down the mountain I decided to teach Bodie a lesson about patience. “You smell those people who came through here a minute or two ago?” I said. “I wanna catch them.”

“Oh yeah! Me too! Is hiking like racing? I liked racing…”

“Well not exactly like racing. It’s not a competition. But it’s like a competition against yourself called ‘goal setting.’ We’re going to pull mom just a little bit faster than she wants to go. Not so fast that she gets scared and makes us slow down, but just enough that you always feel her on the end of the leash, okay? If she makes noise, then that means she’s going to impose a time penalty and that’s bad because we might not catch them.”

“Okay. Gotcha. Just a little bit of pressure on the leash so we don’t overwhelm the Howling Lady. Got it. But what about the stuff in the back and sides?”

“That’s what makes it hard. You’ve got to ignore all the stuff that’s not in front of you. Distractions are bad for goals. That’s called ‘focus’.”

“Oscar! Look! I can see them. They stopped to look at something!”

“See? They don’t have focus, and now we’re going to catch them.”

“Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! We’re going to win this hiking! Hashtag goals! Hashtag focus!”

“Um… I don’t think you’re using those right…”

“You’re an social media dog and you don’t know about hashtags?”

“Never mind. Focus,” I told her.

Slowly but surely we caught up to the people and passed them. “What pretty dogs!” they told Mom when we went by. And then we relaxed and started walking at Mom pace, looking around for the first time in about a mile.

“What?! Now you guys slow down?!” said Mom. “It’s not a race!” No, it’s hiking, suckah, and we just won! And bonus: by getting Bodie to focus, she had also stopped smacking me in the face with her butt when she swerved side to side. Double suckah!

-Oscar, the hiking champion

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