Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You Are Who You Think You Are: Life Lessons From A Goat


Ellie Di is The Headologist: an attitude adjuster, compassionate critical thinker, spiritual nomad, and compulsive scribbler. She spends her days working one-on-one with self-aware, funky people searching for their next level of awesomeness. You can visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. And if you’re really intrigued, sign up for her newsletter and get every headology product absolutely free.


I lived on a small farm outside a tiny town in the Missouri Ozarks for six years. Lush trees, no neighbors, a backyard garden, and a party barn made it practically the ideal place to live if it weren’t for a wood-burning furnace and clay/rock instead of dirt. And the animals. We had so many animals.

At its peak, our non-working farm hosted: five dogs, seven cats, four pigs, two mules, one horse, two dozen breeding/eating rabbits, twelve chickens, six guinea hens, a goose, a turkey, and a nanny goat.

Oh god, the goat.

Mom bought Addy in a whirlwind of make-your-own-cheese excitement. We’d milk her! And she’d mow the grass! When we unloaded the white critter into the yard, things seemed promising. She liked our grass, and she let us milk her without horning us in the face.

But we quickly realized something wasn’t right. Addy did all her normal goat activities and enjoyed free reign of the farm, but she’d spent an abnormally large amount of time with the dogs. The beasts had the run of the place, forming a tight gang of ruffians that had been known to drag in calf carcasses. For whatever reason, Addy decided that she’d found her people.

The damn goat thought she was a dog.

Addy jumped up on you, hooves on shoulders. She bleated loudly at intruders. She harassed the guinea hens. She sprinted madly with the pack after uncatchable cars. If we’d let her in the house, I’m sure she would’ve claimed a couch.

And because she did dog things, the dogs accepted Addy into their rural gang. It was the weirdest pack you’ve ever seen: a cocker spaniel, a Brittany spaniel, a Great Dane, and a nanny goat. They ran around blissfully unaware of how bizarre they were, just happy to be doing what they loved.

However, the humans in Addy’s life didn’t approve of her lifestyle. She was a milk goat, dammit! The last thing we needed was another renegade dog. We wanted her to, you know, be a goat.

To that end, we built her a special enclosure off the chicken barn. She had loads of room, but she’d been cut off from the pack, unable to roam as she pleased, and it only took a few days for her to get depressed. She sat sullenly in her pen, rarely nibbling at her feed. Even the dogs moped, glum to have lost their friend.

We’re soft-hearted folks, so we didn’t let this go on long. Rather than force her into milk-maid-hood, we found a family nearby who were delighted with her personality that kept her as a pet.

If Addy thought she was a dog, Addy could be a dog.

Our brains are great at defining our Self. If you’re convinced you’re a horrible, worthless person, then that’s your truth. If you know you’re all that and a bag of chips, then no one can tell you otherwise. Whatever you believe about yourself is true.

The only way to shift your self-belief is to go inside. You already know the truth. You’re not a horrible, worthless person who’s too fat and sucks at their job; you’re a fascinating individual who’s their right shape and who might need more training. Listen to what your Self is telling you, what you know is who you really are.

When you’re wavering and unsure, try a one of these tactics

Check in with your Self.

If you’re feeling dissonance between your gut and your actions, you’re doing something counter to your Self. Take a mental step back when you feel that ick and see if you can spot the source.

Stop with the comparisons!
Looking at what other people (or the Evil Auctioneer) say you should be and trying to apply it to yourself will make you crazy. You’re not other people, and what works for them won’t necessarily work for you.

Reframe the story.
Spin isn’t just for the news, you know – approach your life as moments that make you the great person you are instead of trying to hide them in shame.

You’re the only person in charge of your destiny. No one else gets to tell you who to be. True joy comes from being who you are, and screw anyone who wants you to be different.

If you know you’re a dog and happen to be a goat, be a dog.

10 comments

  1. Great post! It's so important that we stop comparing ourselves to other people, and I've tried so hard for the last few years to do that.

    Also, growing up, there was a donkey on my dad's farm that thought it was a cow.

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  2. Oh I love this! What a great article. I spend my days working with goats who think they're dogs, make the leap into full dog-hood. :)

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  3. brilliant. i really needed this today.

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  4. I loved this post! This was wonderful!

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  5. You gave away the goat? Wasn't she even more depressed without her dog friends even in sight?

    I don't like this story.

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  6. can't believe you didn't let the goat stay with its buddy dog pals. so mean.

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  7. Cool story! My goat hates dogs with a burning passion, similar to the flames of Hades. Bill (my goat) has taught me many lessons, the lesson you speak of hear is definitely one of them!

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  8. When I finished reading this I found myself looking for the 'I Like' button hahaha
    Great post!

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  9. Love this post. It's so true and really relevant for me at the moment. And I love goats. :)

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