Alright, I admit it; I am jealous of my dog. Every day, as I leave for work, he eyes me, in that annoying way, waiting for me to leave so he can run upstairs to snooze the day away and mock my life as an overly committed graduate student. Oh, to be a well-loved house pet. But, as I curse him as he sleeps, I do tend to forget that I control much of his life. If he wants to go outside, he has to wait for me to come home, if he wants to go for a W-A-L-K, he has to wait until I ask him, etc.. But to be quite honest, I think there’s a bit we could learn from our furry companions in our attitudes about life and about grad school. Here are some insights I have learned from my dog.
1. Don’t take life so seriously
; a great mantra to repeat to myself multiple times daily. As graduate students, we often take ourselves, and our lives, too seriously. The most successful academics that I have met are able to prioritize which things in life are worth stressing over, and which are not. They are often joyful in their work, and I envy them for the ability to conduct themselves with this much composure and a general disregard for the normal stress that is “supposed” to accompany a position of this rank.
2. Greet new challenges with curiosity and excitement, embracing, instead of running from opportunities.
If we took each failing or identification of a gap in our own knowledge as an opportunity to learn and grow, instead of a mark of ineptitude, we would all be smarter, better students. It is also impossible to be good at something without first learning it, and then practicing it. If we greeted each new challenge as a way to increase our knowledge base and add tools to our repertoire, we’d all be more confident and adept.
3. Appreciate those that you love.
Don’t take for granted those who value you. Maybe don’t greet them with a wet tongue to the face, but let them know how much they help and shape you as a professional or a person. Fostering solid relationships is key to developing support groups (see previous blog on support groups).
4. Be yourself, unconditionally.
Every dog is different, but each is unforgivingly exactly who they are. Find your strengths and play to them. If you have strong social skills, possibly think about a career in communication. If you hate people, maybe avoid the service industry. Just some suggestions, but be who you are confidently.
5. Be cautious when appropriate, guarding yourself and your own when required.
Learn to value yourself and those you trust. Protect yourself and your intellectual property from others. Put faith in those that earn your trust and be wary of others in your career.
Be warned, this is not an all-inclusive recommendation. I do not support rolling in dead things or eating cat poop as a special treat. But if truth be told, we could all probably be a bit more reflective and learn a few valuable “lessons from our dogs.”
Kaylee is a Ph.D. student in the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences department.