As the owner of two enthusiastic border collies, it’s extra important that they get out on big adventures on a regular basis. Thus, I have created what I call the “dog ratio” — the number of activities I do with them before I can enjoy a day out without them.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could take them everywhere but certain activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking and mountaineering are not always dog friendly.Thus I follow this ratio as a golden rule: for every 3 outings with the dogs, I can do 1 without them. The fine print says I can have MORE than three outings with them before my 1 activity, but not vice-versa. Therefore, if I take two days of big mountain biking, I then owe the dogs 6 days of fun.
Of course, this isn’t hard to do. Mountain hikes and backpacking with the dogs are my favorite activities — I often end up with a non-dog adventure deficit. And I can sneak in small activities (2 hours or less) without it affecting “the ratio”. Really, the ratio system is just a fun way to remind me of the responsibility I have as a dog owner. If I don’t take the initiative, their worlds become very small.
Lately, I’ve tried to make a point to work some of these goal-based ratios into other aspects of my life. Most of us, of course, have a work-to-income ratio. Life is full of plenty of unfun / fun ratios which impose upon us a need for order and discipline. Better are goals that we create of our own desires that require discipline but offer a more enjoyable journey than laboring at a desk for eight hours a day. For example, I recently wanted an expensive, new guitar amplifier. I could have just bought it and been satisfied, but I decided to turn this into a ratio equation. I needed to practice at least 6 hours a week until I had accrued 200 hours; then I will have earned the amp.
And eventually I did.
Likewise, when I wanted a new pair of running shoes, I decreed that I had to do at least 3 weeks of 20 total miles of running, with one of those daily runs coming in the (ugh) early morning. These little “micro-quests” are great motivators for me because they come with an implied sense of responsibility. Plus, I’ve found that there really is merit to earning the things that are valuable to oneself in life, even if the shortcuts are readily apparent.
Which brings us back to the specific dog ratio. My dog ratio keeps me and my pups healthy and it keeps the bond between us legit. There are other ratios in my life, known only to me, that keep me connected people while also ensuring I “earn” valuable solo down time. It usually takes only a moment’s introspection to do the calculations and come up with a plan.
So whenever I begin to experience unhappiness, stress or general malaise, I look at my ratios and see what’s going on. Maybe I slipped on my “watching the sun rise” ratio, or perhaps I got lost in the “basket of fries vs. boring old salad” ratio. Ratios put a little science behind the vague notion of life balance and when I’m doing it right, each day is as exciting as the next ride in the truck is to my dogs — remember, they are keyed into the dog ratio too. And for them, the fun day out vs. trip to the vet truck ride ratio is thankfully, quite high.