I feel drawn to stillness. To slowing down. Which may seem the opposite of the popular January themes of planning, productivity, and to-do lists. Although I’m definitely a big fan of planning and productivity (more to come on how we plan the entire year for our family of 10 while on our couple’s planning retreat), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and attempts at implementing stillness as a way of doing more of what’s really important.
It’s so easy to see the wonderful things that happen for dogs when we teach them to slow down and be still. A little harder to implement it in our own lives, but dang I want to give it a real go this year!
Teaching a dog to do nothing
One of the first things we do in our dog training program is teaching a dog to basically do…nothing. We teach them to get on a placemat and stay there. That’s it!
Now that may sound like we’re just being lazy, but that’s not it at all. There’s a deeper purpose in teaching place. Not only is it unbelievably convenient for dog owners to have their dog happily lay on a placemat without getting off, it also has massive mental health benefits for the dog. Those benefits then transfer into all aspects of the dog’s life.
As we teach the place command and the owner has unwavering commitment to reinforcing that boundary, the dog learns that staying on place is their only job right now. It often takes some persistence in reinforcing that boundary in a way a dog understands. Not in a heavy-handed way, just loving and consistent feedback to say this is the boundary.
Dog’s Mental Benefits of a Place Command
And what happens mentally when a dog’s ONLY JOB is to lay on a pillow? The dog stops having to police everything, notice everything, and be amped up by every possible stimulus. Their brain stops having to go 100 miles per hour all the time. Eventually the adrenaline they so often have pumping through their system dissipates and they are able to calm down.
They relax…eventually. It can take time. It takes longer from some dogs than for others and that’s totally okay.
Dog’s Physical Signs of Calming Down
It’s so fun to watch this happen the first few times! It’s like clockwork and predictable every time. We call it “coming off the stress curve.” Dogs even show predictable physical signs as they are coming down the stress curve. At the end of the stress curve is a new, calm state of mind. It’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
At the top of the stress curve are things like barking growling, biting, and lunging. Then as they calm down, you may see things like drooling, shaking and tenseness in the body. Continuing down, you may see whining, heavy breathing, drooling, yawning and lip licking.
Likely at this point, the dog has chosen to lay down. Eventually, the adrenaline physically leaves the body and there’s a moment we call “tired eyes.” The dog’s eyes get droopy and they look like they’re fighting off sleep. It’s almost TOO relaxed. But pretty soon after “tired eyes” comes the moment we’ve been working toward…the deep, satisfied sigh. Literally, a dog will sigh. It’s one of my favorite moments and you can feel the calm.
Peace and calm, all from lying on a pillow.
Do It Again! Repetition.
Now what if your dog has totally calmed down on place, some new distraction comes in and your dog quickly amps up again?
Simple. Keep reinforcing the boundary of staying on the place and allow your dog to work through the stress curve again.
The more you work through it, the faster your dog is able to come down the stress curve and find calm. It’s like a mental muscle that gets strengthened with repetition.
I Just Want My Dog to Stop Biting My Kid’s Faces
I once had an owner say these exact words to me we we first started working on the place command: “I don’t care that my dog can lay on a pillow. I just want him to stop biting my kid’s faces!”
Well, obviously I had not taught her well enough the real reason for the place command. It’s counterintuitive, but one of the first things I’m going to teach a dog that’s biting people is to lay on a pillow. The dog not only needs that clear physical boundary, but needs to be taught how to find a calm state of mind which can then be brought into all aspects of their everyday life.
Our dog, Coco, seeks a place command even if we haven’t given her one. When she starts to stress out or be over stimulated, instead of biting someone’s face, she has another coping mechanism. She often seeks a placemat or runs to her crate. She knows what calm feels like.
Our son John and dog Coco both doing their funny little “Sits”
Now to be fair there are times she’s going crazy and we still have to direct her to it. I just find it interesting that she so often seeks it out on her own.
We teach a dog to find a calm state of mind using other functional commands as well, but place is one of the best commands to start with.
Can Someone Teach ME a Place Command?
Jason and I are delving into the idea of personal and business growth that can come by intentionally doing LESS. Much like doing a place command, it seems counterintuitive. But I’m seeing how growth can happen when entrepreneurs (and people in general) slow down and become more intentional and less segmented.
I need a place command!
Accomplish More by Doing Less
In the book “10x is Easier than 2x” which I referenced in an earlier blog (read blog), author Benjamin Hardy explains, “When it comes to planning your day, you’re going for impact and progress, not busyness. You’re also going for quality over quantity.”
“You’ll be surprised that you achieve more and better results by doing less. Working less is essential to making more money and going 10x. If you’re going 10x, your time will need to be far less segmented. Far less thinly-sliced. More wide-open days and more blocks of increasing size, like four or more hours without meetings or distractions.”Hardy, B. (2023). 10x is Easier than 2x: How World Class Entrepreneurs Achieve More by Doing Less.
Then he says when you fully focus and do your intentional and purposeful work, to stop and be done.
“Completely unplug when you’re done and actively recover. Don’t work longer than is necessary, unless you’re on some extreme deadline like a focus week or month. Achieve your core objectives. Be bold. Then, when it’s time to be done, let it go. Unplug. Psychologically detach from work. Go actively recover and expand the other important areas of your life, because how you do anything is how you do everything.”Hardy, B. (2023). 10x is Easier than 2x: How World Class Entrepreneurs Achieve More by Doing Less.
I long to embrace this way of working and living! Jason and I both do! So we set out the last couple of weeks to implement what Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan call “Free days,” where you schedule full days to actively recover and expand in other ways outside of your business.
Our figurative place command.
Turns Out We Suck at Free Days
Pardon the language, but it turns out we suck at having free days. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. It’s sad. We are like the dog that’s still up tight, breathing heavy, and whining as we put ourselves on Place…er, uh…into a scheduled free day.
We’re pretty good at detaching from work on Sundays (a literal God-send) or while we’re on a trip with our family. We’re more practiced at that.
But a scheduled free day just here at home with the family, full of active renewal and recovery? It’s harder than it sounds. Apparently it takes some real intentional work and practice.
For example, here are a couple of my journal entries from this past week:
Jason had the great idea of locking away our phone and computer on a free day in order to fully detach. That may be necessary, especially at first as we learn how to do this. Not just for Jason, but for me as well.
We will keep working on NOT working, and keep you updated.
Why We Chose to do Entrepreneurship Full Time
Afterall, we didn’t jump into business full time for the purpose of getting caught up in the thick of thin things. We didn’t make the leap so we could work more and live less. We didn’t open our schedule just to have more time being distracted and being busy getting nowhere.
No. We became self-employed for more time with our family, to focus on our own personal growth, and to better serve others now and in the future.
You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup
I hear this advice given to mothers all the time: You can’t give from an empty cup. How true it is! The same applies to business owners. You can’t serve your people nearly as well if your ragged, frazzled, and distracted.
We’re in our eighth year of running Cornerstone, but only our second year of doing entrepreneurship full time. Just as we expected, the journey has proven to be a personal development one as much as it’s been learning to better run a business.
Growing yourself and growing a business, I believe, must go hand in hand. Different ends of the same stick. That’s part of what I love about it!
Tony Robbins said, “Business is a spiritual game.”
I can see that. I feel that.
Thanks for joining us on the journey! Here’s to more place commands and free days…and learning to love both!