As you contemplate your New Year’s resolutions for this brand new year, I thought the story below from Dr. Wayne Dyer might come in handy.
I heard the story the other day while listening to one of his podcasts and it struck me as the perfect philosophy for finding and maintaining happiness.
The story goes like this:
One day, an old alley cat was out for a walk when he noticed a kitten chasing its tail around in circles. Slightly amused, the older cat watched the chase for quite some time. Finally, he walked up to the kitten and said, “Excuse me little kitten…I’ve been watching you for quite some time chasing your tail in circles; what exactly are you doing?”
Out of breath, the kitten replied, “I’ve been attending cat philosophy school and I’ve learned two things: First, the most important thing for a cat is happiness; and second, that happiness is located in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing my tail: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness forever.”
Laughing, the wise old cat replied, “My son, I wasn’t lucky enough to go to cat philosophy school, but as I’ve gone through life, I too have realized that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and that it is, indeed, located in my tail.
The difference I’ve found is that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business and live my life the way I want to, it just seems to follow after me wherever I go.”
Boom. Tell it like it is, Dr. Wayne Dyer.
I love this story because I think it’s so true.
One cat advanced in the direction of the life he imagined, and happiness followed after him. The other cat chased happiness night and day and never found it.
I spent a significant portion of my life chasing my tail — climbing and clamoring for more titles and trophies to impress other people. And, just like the young kitten, I was always out of breath and (despite exerting a ridiculous amount of effort) happiness often eluded me.
What’s fascinating to me about this story is that both cats shared the same philosophical belief (happiness is the goal and happiness can be found in their tail). However, they acted on that belief in radically different ways.
Most notably, the older and wiser cat rejected the notion that the chase was important.
What if you believed that chasing wasn’t important?
What if, this year, you dropped the belief that the act of chasing was critical to finding and maintaining happiness?
Are you chasing a particular reputation at work? Are you chasing a gold-plated image in the eye of your son’s schoolteacher? Are you staying up late or waking up super early just to get everything done in the day? If you can’t get everything done in one day, it’s probably an indication that you’re chasing too many things.
Most New Year’s resolutions are laced with wholesale changes that we want to make in our lives, which often result in adding more and more chasing to our lives.
What if this year was different?
What if you adopted the outlook of the wise old alley cat: If you move in the direction of the life you imagine, happiness will calmly and quietly follow you.
Without all the struggle.
Maybe if we all just sat down and took a deep breath, we’d realize that we’re sitting on more happiness and success than we think.
Maybe you need to make wholesale changes in your life, but maybe you don’t. Maybe you already have a lot of the success and happiness that you’re searching for. Maybe that very happiness is following you as you chase for even more.
Personally, my New Year’s resolution is to limit the chasing, running and stressing that comes along with striving for a life that’s different from the one I have right now.
In other words, I plan to take a lot more deep breaths and sit on my tail instead of chasing it.