Feeding What We Want to Grow

As a teacher of literature, one of my favorite genres was always those of stories handed down through cultures and generations. They have the staying power to transcend time and the natural withering away on the page because they are kept in the hearts and on the mouths of people. Recently, I saw a quick version of one of my favorites on a friend's Instagram grid about feeding the wolf inside us. For anyone that doesn't know, this story is credited to the Cherokee Nation, and this photo summarizes it really well.

In this story, we can all find something with which we can related, and the message from the grandfather in the story is clear.

To become the version of ourselves that we want to be, we must nourish that version. 

When working through this text with students, it was such a gift to uncover the variety of ways in which we will humanly respond to a story with such moral implications. The quick and more obvious reactions are that many of us don't want to acknowledge both wolves exist. Doing so means we must admit to ourselves and others that we have emotions that are flawed. Another is that we can fight against this idea because nourishing the "good" wolf can be a lot harder than allowing the "bad" wolf to fend for itself with little work on our part with such bounty awaiting those emotions at every turn. 

The truth is that it is a lot easier to access envy, pride, and anger than it is to summon humility, empathy, and faith. In Wisconsin, I equate it to the easy access to processed, sugary food compared to fresh fruit and vegetables. We feed our wolves out of ease and not always what is best. 

It was always the reaction that took more time, but the best is when we see ourselves reflected in this story and feel empowered to take action steps to nourish the version we want to win. What an epiphany!

As I was pondering the depth of meaning with this story once again, I noticed a brilliant piece of artwork on my wall that has become a part of the decor,  I had forgotten it's impact. I bought this gorgeous original art from a student at a silent auction fundraiser at our school and loved people's reaction to it every time they were in my office. There was always a person or two who had to physically flip it to see it's double meaning. What a great tool the art ended up being in teachable moments with students too! 

Just like the lesson about feeding the innate qualities of "good and evil" inside us, this image had me pondering what I am feeding in regard to mindset. 

Past v. Future 
Looking Back v. Looking Ahead 
Goals v. Accomplishments
Hope v. Regret
Striving v. Reflecting
Summoning maturity v. Summoning youthful exuberance
Wisdom v. Eager to learn

And this thinking really empowered my heart. Because if we always have the two wolves inside us, that means we have the power to feed the one we need to nourish the most to transform into our best versions. 

  • If I have been focused hard on my goals and not thinking about what I've accomplished already (To-Do versus Ta-Da List) and it is draining me, I can feed the Ta-Da! Thank you Jessica Johnson.
  • If I have been ruminating on the failures of the past, I can feed the thinking forward lesson to take away and move it into future pursuits. 
  • If I have been striving to become something different or better and I feel stuck, I can reflect about what I've already become to get closer to that person. I may not be at step ten, but I might have already moved from step 0 to five, and that is something!

My own focus is on feeding productivity, strength, and courage this whole year so that I can #slay any giant that I encounter. 

What are you currently feeding and is it different from the one you want to grow? Is it time to consider a new diet for mindset? 


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