The Wolf You Feed: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 'wolves' inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed." - Native American Parable.
I've always found this story particularly meaningful and graciously simple. Lately, as I witness my clients make big beautiful shifts in their lives and organizations, and as I make shifts in my own (as we transition the business and the lives of 4 people and a dog cross country), I find myself thinking about this story a lot. I notice the wolves that come for food, I notice the impact and the energy of whichever wolf we choose to feed, and I notice the power of choice and consciousness in the matter.
It's really quite cool (though it may not always seem it at the moment of choice), we (as individuals or groups) can experience a traumatic or stressful event, engage in a difficult conversation, or take on a huge task (that is not a ton of fun) -- do the "work" to get through it (which is often just feeding the good wolf despite challenge), and come out okay -- most often truly the better for it. Or, on the flip side of this, we can go through the exact same/very similar experience, resist it, feed the dark wolf, and in the end come out wounded, angry, blaming, and holding onto it (even for years to come.) Same situations... completely different outcomes. As I write this, I'm struck by how so much of the work I do with clients is about helping them increase their awareness that they even feed a wolf, have a mindset, impact others with energy, or have the power to influence their outcomes by being intentional about just these things. If they can first identify their wolves, they can then make productive shifts to move them out of the way and create the results and relationships they want.
Each individual (or groups of individuals) in the story feeds a different kind of wolf. Depending on which wolf they feed, their outcomes, experiences of, and behaviors from the exact same event will be completely different. I mention individuals or groups because I've found that groups have a "collective wolf" (or a collective mindset) that gets fed through collusion, gossip, and evidence gathering and ultimately ends up in a "big group think" - positive or negative, productive or not. It's a slippery slope and it either moves mountains or crushes them - depending on the wolf that gets "fed."
What I find interesting, and particularly helpful, is the difference in the energy and mindset that get created and "cycled" due to which "wolf" a person has chosen to feed. Ultimately this choice impacts their energy, their attitude, spirit, and even in some cases their physical health...and ultimately those around them. It's worth noting that one is rarely aware of which wolf they're feeding in the moment (especially if it's the big bad wolf), or even that there is a conscious choice that CAN be made for which wolf to feed. The wolf is so powerful and stealthy that it often just slides right into place before one realizes it's even come for dinner. Further, one rarely realizes that in serving the evil wolf dinner, he or she continues to exhaust his or her own energy stores, giving the wolf even more "evidence" to chew on. A vicious cycle...and one that is fixable with awareness, commitment, and yes...action.
So if you followed that cycle (and even if not literally, I'll bet intuitively you know where I'm going with this), the invitation this week is to consider which wolf you feed. I've offered some inquiries below to support you in your exploration of the question. In part two I'll break it down even more into the "energy, mindset & being" and the "doing & behaviors" of feeding the wolf. In part 3, I'll give you action and place to go in the "what the heck do I do with it all now?" segment of this article.
Make it real field work:
Here are some questions to play with over the next couple of weeks, answer as many as you wish as they resonate:
- Consider your most challenging relationship or situation right now (business or personal); which wolf are you feeding?
- Which is your "default" wolf (do you have a habit of naturally tending to feed one wolf over the other)?
- How do you know when you're "feeding" the wolf (the good, the bad and the ugly)?
- What is the energy of the wolf YOU feed? (How do you feel, what's the internal energy you create?)
- What is the cost? What is the benefit?
- What is the impact on those around you?
- Consider some of the teams you've worked on/work on, or your organization as a whole - which wolf do you feed personally, and which wolf does your team tend to feed?
Notice what wolf you tend to feed this week. And notice the collaborative wolves of your team, your family, or even your community. We'll be back with Part 2 of this article in 2 weeks. Happy hunting!