As soon as we decided to compete with our dogs, we ended up with goals. My very first dog of my own was a lab-mix who I responsibly took to puppy class along with my best girlfriend and her puppy. It might have been during our second class that the instructor told us about something called a “CGC Test” and that the test would be given at the end of the session. Suddenly my friend and I HAD to have this thing we had never heard of before. We started meeting on weekends to practice leaving our dogs in down stays in the middle of Banana Republic (back when it was safari). We trained like it was a UD!
With that sort of training - for a CGC no less - of course we passed. But that’s not the point. The point is we were suddenly driven to get “parchment” from the AKC for an achievement we didn’t know we wanted. Amazing the power a goal, even newly-formed.
Yet what happens when we miss the mark? When, for any number of reasons, we don’t achieve the “thing” and the mail doesn’t come?
We had this discussion during a recent workshop. How do you come back from a setback? How do you stop beating yourself up about a mistake? Stop replaying it again and again? Is it really okay to grieve the loss?
All of us in the room had experienced this in various situations and we all could relate to how these moments “eff” with your brain! You literally can’t move past it, getting stuck in the rut of replaying it either mad at yourself for a mistake or in disbelief that the achievement was taken away. No matter the source, it blows!
So how to get past it?
First, spend a moment (or several) getting really clear on exactly what it is that you’re upset about. Is it that you didn’t get the title or award? Or that you made a handling mistake? Was this a one-time shot and now the chance is gone forever? Did your dog get injured? Was it some fluke thing?
Second, once you are sure you are to the root of what has you spinning, sit with the emotion long enough to process it, but not so long that you’re wallowing. How do you know the difference? I usually say that if you’re not sure if you’re wallowing, you probably are ;)
Next, with a humble and vulnerable heart, ask yourself if there is anything you could have done differently. If yes, then what can you learn? What can you put in place to mitigate the same mistake manifesting in the future? If no, then release yourself from any lingering guilt, shame or embarrassment. Sometimes, stuff happens.
At this point you may need to meditate and ask for it to be released. Or you may write the disappointment on a piece of paper then turn it to ashes. You will know you are rid of it when you can honestly feel gratitude for the experience. Be grateful you had the guts to walk into the ring, or learned a lesson from it, or just got to run with your dog toward a goal that meant so much. Ah, what an honor to play with our dogs at this level!
When you can feel these emotions fully, you’ll know you have processed it and can go back to setting new goals. And depending on the size of the disappointment, this may take a while! Show yourself compassion during the process and remember we, and our dogs, are not a piece of cheap parchment paper! We are so very much more!!