Donkeys vs Dogs- Strategies for Donkeys

If I were to describe human behavior by comparing it to animals, I would pick donkey and dog. As the famous story goes, when the donkey is shown a carrot, it chases and walks towards it. That applies to many of us as well. Show us a reward and we will get to work. Others of us behave more like dogs. Now, what do dogs do that donkeys don’t? They sniff. All the time. If there is a bone in the room, they will sniff and find it. They don’t need to be shown the bone in front of them for them to go and get it, oh, no. You put the bone in the next room, they will sniff their way to it and get it.

To put things in better perspective, let’s imagine a conversation between a donkey and a dog…

Dog: Hey Donkey, why are you standing still? Why don’t you look around for carrots?

Donkey: I don’t see any carrots.

Dog: Yeah.. but why don’t you go search over there, you might find something?

Donkey: Yeah, there is a chance that I MIGHT, but what if I don’t? Why waste time and energy when I could just stand here and relax.
(relatable, anyone?)

Dog: Dude, what?! How can you be so lazy… Whatever. I’m going to search for a bone.

Donkey: Where though? Do you know where the bone is?

Dog: No, I’m just going to start searching..it usually works..If I search long enough, I usually end up finding something.

Donkey: Wow…that never works for me. Any way, good luck, I’m just going to sit here and relax.

Some people will follow their curiosity and interests without thinking about the ‘carrot’- the end result or what they may get out of it, thus exhibiting dog-like behavior. They will sniff and keep sniffing and eventually find something valuable. You know who I’m talking about. That kid in your class who stayed up till 4 am reading about quantum computing just because she was interested to know more, and ten years later, she’s in Silicon Valley inventing cutting-edge technology. Or that guy with a day job who devoted his entire weekends to making YouTube videos just because he ‘wanted to try it out’, without necessarily having a plan or vision or making any money, and five years later, he’s a Youtube Millionaire. I recently spoke with someone who runs a brilliant podcast — he doesn’t make any money out of it, he doesn’t have a vision or plan of where he wants to take it, no concrete idea of how it will help in his future career. But in addition to having another job to make ends meet, he runs this podcast, and it’s amazing.

…You get the idea. There are people like that. And then there’s me. Or, well, people like me. The donkeys. Unless we see a carrot- a clear, concrete idea of what we will get out of doing something, we will not do it.
(I understand that this isn’t always the case, there are some activities that may give you intrinsic pleasure and you may do them without seeing a ‘carrot’. For example, if you like to play the guitar, you’ll play everyday, for fun. But you probably won’t quit your job, start a band, invest in professional equipment and record an album.. unless you see it going somewhere, will you?)

If you’re a donkey like me, do not worry. It’s not over for us. There are several successful people who are donkeys. We just need some different strategies to get to work.

1. Write Down Your Goals

Write down your goals. Pen and paper, please. And be as specific as possible. For example, don’t just write ‘lose weight’. If you want to read everyday about a particular subject, set that as a goal. And don’t just write that you will spend half an hour everyday reading about that topic. Write down the exact number of pages/chapters/articles/books you will read everyday.

2. Look At Your Goals Everyday

Stick your goals on a wall in your room where you are forced to look at them everyday. This helps keep the motivation up.

3. Track Your Progress

At least once a week, record your progress. Now this is super-important.

You need to believe that you’re getting closer and closer to your carrot with every step you take.

I like to do it on the papers I have stuck on my wall: For example, record your weight every week. Or, if your goal is to read a certain number of books by a certain date, record the number of pages you read. Also write down what you learnt from that, and how it will help you attain your bigger goals.

4. Reward Yourself

Promise yourself a reward for attaining your goals, and be sure to reward yourself when you do. We donkeys need to have our carrots and eat them too. (See what I did there? :))

P.s.- I’m not saying it’s binary for everyone- some of us are sometimes more like dogs, other times more like donkeys.

The four steps mentioned above would help anyone and everyone, regardless of whether you’re more like a donkey or a dog. But donkeys definitely need it more.


Originally published on my blog.

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