Being a noun, at least theoretically is pretty easy. I am an animal lover. I am a dog and horse trainer. I am a writer. I can sit comfortably with many nouns.
But to actually be any of these things I must … something. If I love dogs I take action. I provide for my canine crew, I learn, I strive to be better at loving my dogs. I don’t simply ooh and ahh as I scroll Instagram. Doing the verb is a much harder task.
If I train dogs I get up, away from my computer and I invest time and action in teaching the dogs something. Dora learns a down, Yen learns to stay and I remember the elements of training that I love. I plan; I keep records. I determine reinforcement and schedules and consider each individual dog in front of me. What do they need to know? What’s my skill set? What holes do each of us have that need filling? To train my dogs I can’t read a book or watch videos and consider the job done; I need to get working.
Labels are part of being human. My Mum and I chat nearly daily, we often label the weather. What a gross day, what a lovely day – the great Canadian pastime lives strongly in our conversations. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I pay attention when I find myself labelling sentient beings, including myself.
Labelling our training partners or ourselves is not generally useful. It is judgemental, even pejorative and can feed into feelings of inadequacy and discontent. You are not stupid because you aren’t sure how to teach a swing finish. Your dog is not lazy because rabbits ran through the training space yesterday and smelling is higher on the canine agenda than working today. Your horse is not hateful because s/he’s refusing to stand at the mounting block, pain or lack of understanding may be at play – or maybe it’s the weather! I am sure you thought of your own examples of labels.
Labels can shift insidiously from descriptive to definitive. And that, my friends, is a problem worth giving serious consideration to. Notice when you use labels. Pay attention when you are an actionless noun. To paraphrase the ever thought-provoking Hannah Branigan how can you operationalize those adjectives and nouns?
If we live in a world of adjectives and nouns we can get stuck hiding behind the labels. Experiment with changing your focus to what you need to do rather than holding the label, or desire of being any noun. Intention is fine and well – but action is ever so much more powerful.
Experiment with doing the verb not being the thing. I think you’ll like it. Let me know!