10 Laws of Life

The more I learn about people…the more I like my cat.

I’ve said that more than once.  It’s been my experience that “animal people” prefer the company of non human animals.   We tend to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable, including each other.  The problem is that the animals in our care cannot support themselves, nor can they change the status quo of abuse and extinction without our help.  The responsibility is ours and understanding these 10 Laws of Life will enable you to deal with it.

You either “get it” or you don’t.

Animal people are often perceived as losers, lacking in social skills, because we tell ourselves that people are not worth our time.  We pride ourselves on the ability to “talk to the animals”, and that has an important place in our lives and theirs, but we have to understand how people are motivated if we are going to do anything on a grand scale for the animals.  Believe it or not, these same 10 laws govern us all and they are as inescapable as the laws of nature.  You are not going to get around them, so you will have to understand them to be a winner for your cause.

Strategy:  Become one of those who “gets it”.

You create your own experience.

Considering that most of us who are in the animal rescue business are up to our armpits in dirty litter pans, bloody bandages, and debt, this is a scary concept.  Did we do this on purpose?  Fact is:  YES.  We are sure that most people wouldn’t understand but we do this because we draw great satisfaction from knowing that we did everything we could to make the world a better place today.  We made our lives harder by choice, but we can also choose to make doing the right thing easier.  Not one of us can solve all of the problems that our animal friends face, but together we can.  Life is what we make it and we can’t blame others for not helping if we are not effectively asking.

Strategy:  Acknowledge and accept accountability for your life.

People do what works.

Think about what makes you get up every two hours around the clock to take care of an orphaned infant.  What reward does your life of cleaning cages and treating the sick and dying give you?  Mid life crisis is defined by waking up one day and realizing that half your life is over and you aren’t happy with where you are.   A younger mate and faster car won’t make you happy with yourself.  Everyone wants to feel fulfilled.  Everyone wants to be remembered.  Everyone wants to feel accepted or like a hero;  a winner.  You can lead them to what they really want out of life by your example.

Strategy:  Identify the payoffs that drive your behaviour and that of others.

You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.

Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away.  Pretending you don’t need people doesn’t make it so.  It is so easy to see when other people are screwing up and we can give a whole laundry list of why the things they do, over and over, the same way, are all wrong.  It is a lot harder to recognize those negative patterns in our own lives.  All you have to do is look at what is NOT working in your life, to know that there is a problem.  When something is not working, it is because of something we are doing, or not doing.  Once we think it through and can put our finger on our own bad pattern, we can do something about it.

Strategy:  Get real with yourself about life and everybody in it.

Life rewards action.

This separates the dreamers from the doers; the winners from the losers.  Knowing everything you can about yourself, about how people react to acceptance and rejection, and about your particular calling in life is not enough unless you do something about it.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Take action and insist on results.

Strategy:  Make careful decisions and then act on them.

There is no reality; only perception.

Life is what we make of it.  Some people fall apart under stress while others are at their best in a crisis.  Our attitude is entirely our own choosing.  We are often unaware that we chose to be the way we are because we have accepted our own limiting self talk.  We have told ourselves that we aren’t good enough, or that we can’t change things, or that we will be rejected if we ask for help.  Make a list of all the negative things you say to yourself and then challenge them.  Did we let fear, or a few instances of failure, create a filter that we view everything through?  Does the payoff we are getting of not taking a risk really offset the benefit that we could have if we chose to do something dynamic outside our comfort zone?  Ask for that big grant! What’s the worst thing they could do?

Strategy:  Identify the filters through which you view the world.

Life is managed; it is not cured.

If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to have what you have always had, but if you do different, you will have different.  Ask yourself what you can do to make your life better, and then do it every day.  If you want change, you have to make it happen.  If you are doing it right, people will notice and they will want to do better.

Strategy:  Learn to take charge of your life.

We teach people how to treat us.

If you let people dump their responsibilities on you and demand nothing of them, then you have said to them, and the rest of the world, that it’s okay to do so.  Remember that people do what works.  If they can buy cute little cubs each year, make their living off them and then dump them on your doorstep for the next 20 years, they will do that. If you are amazed that the government allows such exploitation of animals to happen with no penalty, it is because you haven’t done anything to change that.  If you wonder why the public doesn’t jump right in and help, it’s because you haven’t shown them how they benefit from it.  If you don’t like the way things are, you have to change them.

Strategy:  Own, rather than complain about, how people treat you.

There is power in forgiveness.

I monitor all the cat chat digests, but rarely put my two cents in.  Most of what is posted there are people bickering about the stupidest things you can imagine.   I think one of the biggest problems that animals face is the sad fact that their supporters, their voices, are people with poor communication skills.  People become too concerned with being right and lose their focus on doing what’s right.  They get so bogged down in gossip and back biting that the bigger issues are left unattended.  What will help our animals more:  Holding a grudge or getting past that to work toward a common goal?  We have to accept that we all have different perceptions of the problem and different ideas for the cure.  Nonetheless, we all have to pull together and decide on a common plan.  We have to do this with a spirit of understanding,  keeping our eye on the ultimate good.

Strategy:  Open your eyes to what anger and resentment are doing to you.

You have to name it before you can claim it.

This is the fun part.  This is where we say, “If my life were perfect….”  it would be like this.  This is where dreams become reality.  Write down all the details of your perfect life.  Would trophy hunting be banned?  Would people be held responsible for the animals they breed from birth to death?  Would animal abuse carry the same penalties as child abuse?  Would we live in a society that cherished all life?  Think about what matters to you and aim high.  You don’t want to set the goal too low and then spend your whole life pursuing something that wasn’t what you really wanted.  Make yourself a detailed, step by step plan and give yourself a deadline.  Break your plan down into pieces that you can handle and then accomplish each day’s task that brings you closer to your goal.  You deserve a better life and you are the only one who is going to make it happen.

Strategy:  Get clear about what you want and take your turn.

 The Ten Laws of Life and their strategies are detailed in Life Strategies by Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D.  I would recommend this terrific book to anyone who is serious about getting the most out of life.  The adaptations made here are by Carole Baskin, Founder Big Cat Rescue 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625  (813) 920-4130

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