I’ve recently started walking again with two goals in mind. One, get healthier. And two, relive my “glory days” by fitting into a pair of jeans that haven’t seen the light of day in quite some time.
One of these goals is far more realistic than the other, but hey, we’ve all got dreams. The important thing is to realize that our dreams don’t just materialize on a wish and a prayer. They take time, focus, and discipline. They—as I’ve recently come to witness—require German Shepherd-like intensity. Allow me to explain.
One of my favorite places to take a morning walk is at a local park. The paved loop there is just shy of a mile, with a huge open field in the center and a babbling brook hugging the pathway’s exterior. It is peaceful, serene, and inspiring—all the things I need to help me stay the course in my quest for health and non-spandex jean wearing.
On a few occasions while walking there, I’ve had the opportunity to witness something truly amazing: a German Shepherd doing obedience training with his owner. They arrive to the park walking side by side, the dog off leash.
I’m slightly nervous because of the unpredictability of what could happen with an unrestrained dog. I mean, all it takes is a rogue squirrel or me appearing as a threat and we’re all toast.
But not this dog. He walks confidently and calmly in step with his owner. A few moments later, the owner, with leash coiled in hand, points to the field and the dog follows. He points again, and the dog sits, his eyes focused on his owner. Watching. Waiting.
The owner begins to walk away from the dog, only turning his head for an occasional look back about every 20 feet or so. When he reaches to what seems like nearly a football field of distance between him and the pup, he finally stops and turns to face the dog.
It’s the longest staring contest I’ve ever seen. Neither dog nor owner is even flinching. And then, the owner gives the long-awaited sign. He raises his arm straight up into the air and deftly flicks his hand up. The German Shepherd launches into a full-blown sprint toward his owner and once he reaches him, circles him a few times before quietly sitting by his side.
I’ve seen some pretty amazing obedience training before, but this just blows my mind—and mainly for one big reason. Not a single audible exchange happens between the pair the entire time. And I mean entire. From the moment they exited their car it was as if they had taken a monastic vow of silence of the Canine Order. There were no vocal commands or affirmations. No barking. No nothing. Just two simple hand gestures and loads of unspoken trust.
I can only imagine all the things that have to work together to pull off a performance like that. Hours and hours of practice to learn the commands and refine their communication. And the focus. Had that dog taken his eyes off his owner as he walked away he could have easily lost sight of him. And had he lost sight of him, he would not have seen the hand signal. His ability to focus and maintain that intensity was paramount to his success.
So what does all this have to do with my dreams? Because I believe that in life, we are the German Shepherd and that owner represents our dreams. And I’m not just referring to my jean-goal-wearing dreams. I’m talking big dreams. Life purpose. The things we want to look back on at the end of our lives and smile about because we accomplished them.
It’s so easy to get distracted and lose focus. Especially when our dreams seem so far in the distance. We get disappointed and lose hope. It’s too far out of reach. But that’s when the payoff usually happens. The hours we’ve poured into it—pursuing knowledge and refining our skills—all hinge on us being able to stay the course and not miss that all important hand signal.
That moment when preparation and opportunity meet, and we get the green light to go for it.
But here’s the kicker. It’s a hand signal. Not a message blasting through a PA system or an alarm ringing obnoxiously in our ears. It’s quiet, it’s subtle, and it’s nearly imperceptible except to the one who remains focused on it. Watching. Waiting.
Wherever you’re at, friend, don’t give up. Your sprint is coming. That gap between you and your long-awaited dream will close. And your victory lap will happen if you stay focused on the callings and purposes for your life. And when it does…my…my…my…what a beautiful thing it will be to watch.