“Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.” – Smiley Blanton
The living areas in our home have wood floors and area rugs. I didn’t pay attention when I noticed annie, our Toy Fox Terrier, avoiding the wood floors: it was cold and perhaps she was warmer standing on an area rug. However, when instead of her usual mad dash to her dinner plate, she lingered on the family room rug—I realized it was more than a chilly floor.
Something has gotten between her ears. For some reason—perhaps she slipped and fell—she is frightened of the wood floors. You can see her calculating how to maneuver from one area to the next. To get to the kitchen, she will run from the family room rug to one under a game table: only to realize she is further away. Then she will return to the family room rug and continue her deliberations. When tempted with food, she will bark, spin and pant as she tries to decide how to get to it without stepping on a wood floor. Eventually, the prospect of food outweighing her fear, she will brave the wood floor and receive her reward.
Annie is baffled by the hallways. The hall between the dining and living room is dangerous but the one from the dining room to the kitchen is not. Coming through the front door she rushes to the dining room rug; from there through the “good” hallway, to the mat in front of the kitchen sink; then to the rug under the breakfast table; and finally, to the utility room and her dinner dish. With a pause to build courage at each stop, the process is hilarious to watch.
Annie is not the only one to be afflicted by thoughts she can’t get rid of. It happened to me on the golf course. A couple of months ago I began to slice short-iron shots. After some thought, I realized not turning my shoulders occasioned the problem; so I became conscious of making a good shoulder turn. Last week I met my buddies on the first tee and foregoing any warm up, proceeded to play well for the first three holes. Then it happened. I was hitting a sand wedge, when in the middle of my back swing, I wondered if I was turning my shoulders. At that point I should have quit, gone to the clubhouse and ordered a beer—stick a fork in me, I was done. Like Annie and the floors, the thought was between my ears and it wasn’t going away.
The fear of failure can deter someone from undertaking a new venture. I have an acquaintance who hates his job. He moans about his boss, pay, hours and lack of advancement. He has written a plan and has funding lined for a new business. However, he fears the possibility of failure more than he hates his job, so he continues to bemoan his circumstance. He doesn’t recognize the misery accruing from failure couldn’t be much worse than the unhappiness he is enduring.
The mindset that there is just one way a job can be done, discourages innovation. There was a mechanic in my sheet metal shop who always found a reason not to use a new fabricating machine. One night, using a length of chain and a padlock, I made the old machine inoperable, forcing him to use the new device. After a couple of days of muttering, he thanked me for making his job easier.
Once a negative thought gets “between the ears,” it’ can be erased through action: if you believe something is dangerous, fix it; beat a problem with practice; list what you believe may be the consequences of failure; and resolve to innovate.
With time, I hope Annie will no longer fear our wood floors. As for my golf swing, if I get over the shoulder turn thought, it will be something else: grip, stance, alignment—always something—but that’s golf.