Clear Water SC Blog
Mindset & productivity

Management versus Control, Lessons from Dogwalking

I have been spending a lot of time with a four-legged friend named Tess. A mountain-born mutt, about 50 pounds (~23 kg), just past puberty, and lean like a race horse, she loves to be outside and moving. When Tess and I go walking, she looks around, listens around, and sniffs around, often going into anteater mode, scanning the ground with her nose as she walks.

If she’s leashed, one of us is pulling. Either she’s pulling away from me to observe a caterpillar, chase a bird, or most often, to check or leave ‘peemail’, or I’m pulling her along to stay on track.

In many places, the human is the boss, the one with control, taking extra steps to manage her encounters with vehicles, small children, aggressive dachsunds, and dried fish vendors. Perhaps by now she has the instinct and discipline to not charge at or take from these entities, but as a matter of risk management and liability the human takes control instead of chance.

Control – walk walk tug tug walk tug look out walk walk tug tug, no, other side, no back to this side, stop, ok go now – feels exhausting.

If I let go of control, will we still stay on track?

Higher up in the residential hills and unleashed, we’ll walk together at a steady pace.

Her steady pace goes like this – walk walk stop sniff walk sniff walk sniff chase, walk sniff walk sniff pee walk walk walk sniff turn around walk sniff sniff nibble walk walk prance prance walk walk walk walk wait… walk walk.

Mine is like this– walk walk walk walk ‘Tess’ walk walk walk walk ‘come Tess’ walk walk ‘good girl, Tess’ walk walk walk walk ‘no Tess, leave that alone’ walk walk ‘good girl’ walk walk ‘go home now, yes, go up the stairs’, walk walk, ‘good girl’.

She’s usually ahead of me or behind me. When she gets ahead of me, I usually find her paused at the next fork in the road. If I’m ahead of her, I’ll take the intended fork and call her as I walk. Within a minute she’ll have caught up and dashed ahead of me.

You’ll find us at different locations at different times, yet we’re both on track.

When I can manage her loosely and don’t have to control her attached to a rope, I arrive feeling less exhausted. I believe she’s happier too.

This month I found myself loosening the rope on what it means to be on track.

I set some goals, scheduled some work, booked meetings, and most of the time they did not happen as written on the calendar. Here and there, other things arrived. Opportunities, urgent matters, closing a bank account because they doubled their fee threshold (reach out to me for details, I will tell you), health matters, just needing a break.

Is it all happening though? For the most part, yes, even if sometimes I am ‘behind’ and other times ‘ahead’.

Does it feel good? If I can accept this pace, yes. If I want to leash it up and dictate, not so much.

Over to you – four questions:

What is an aspiration in your life right now you’re trying to achieve?

What structure is helping you do that?

When is it necessary?

When might it help you to loosen up with that structure?