An old man says to his grandson: “There’s a fight going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil—angry, greedy, jealous, arrogant, and cowardly. The other is good—peaceful, loving, modest, generous, honest, and trustworthy. These two wolves are also fighting within you, and every other person too.”
After a moment, the boy asks, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man smiles.
“The one you feed.”
Most of us can relate to this parable. Our wolves may not represent the stark contrasts of good and evil. They may more closely resemble the contrasts of being anxious, frustrated, pessimistic, and fearful—or calm, peaceful, happy, optimistic, and productive. But regardless, the wolf we choose to feed will be the truth and the reality of the world we live in.
This is important, because the wolf we feed will be the one we most often communicate to our students, colleagues, friends, and family members. And our choice will shape the relationship and the influence we have on these important people in our lives.
So what does “feeding” in this context mean? And what are some practical things we can do to make sure we are feeding the right wolf? Because the truth is there is really only one worth pursuing—for our own happiness and success and the happiness and success of those around us.
First, we can examine what we give most of our attention to. Is it to news stories that feed our worst penchant for what is negative or sordid and conversations that promote anger and polarization? Or is our attention focused around those influences that make us feel more optimistic, happy, and productive?
Second, we can make better choices about our attitude. Realistically, few people have a good attitude 100% of the time. But still, we must remember that our attitude is a choice. People who have what we would call a good attitude may not have one naturally. They choose to have one, and their continuous choice to do so then becomes a habit. Like anything else we want to conquer in life, forming the right habits takes work. So does turning our poor attitudes into better attitudes.
Third, we can take a good look at who we are spending the most time with. Are our friends and associates influencing us in the ways we want to be influenced? Is their example helping us pursue the highest aspirations we have for ourselves? If not, perhaps we need to rethink these associations and choose ones who help us become our best possible selves. After all, we already know the power of associations when it comes to student achievement. Students who hang out with high achievers become higher achievers themselves. So it is with us.
Fourth, we can take a hard look at what we expect. We tend to find what we are looking for. If we expect people to be basically good, we tend to find the good in people. If we expect them to be untrustworthy, we will find that too. Indeed, if we want the wolf within us to be good, peaceful, generous, and optimistic, not only will we begin to expect these things in ourselves, but we will search for and find the things in our world that confirm and support these attributes. Without doubt, there will be numerous things in our experience that will serve to counter our positive expectations. Yet, we can choose again and again to seek out real and tangible proof that the best things in life are still ahead of us. And if we do, we are highly likely to find them.