What Are You Feeding? Kicking Negativity

You may have stumbled across this Cherokee parable before, read it, thought for a brief moment about its striking profundity, and then moved on. Imaginably, that’s why I feel so compelled to share it with you again or perhaps for the very first time.

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil: anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It’s joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

-Author unknown 


The one you feed.

At some level, whether deep or barely scratching the surface, each of us is acutely aware of the truths in this story. Yet, on a collective whole, we’ve tripped into a spin cycle of negative thinking. It’s safe to say that negativity can be found in every dusty corner of our human experience, 24/7, 365. As the moral goes: what we feed is what grows.

It’s no secret that the right attitude has the power to trump fear, inaction, and limiting beliefs. What we bring to the table at the start of each new day can significantly enhance or flat-out demolish the set of parameters we’ve set for ourselves, on others, and the situations we face.

This topic has been circling in my mind since a dear friend sent me an S.O.S text a few weeks ago. You know the kind—a subtle “Hey, how are you?” followed by an on-slot of information that amounts to exceptional distress. I dialed her number, and as I had suspected, she was feeding the dark ‘wolf.’ 

My lips drew up and stayed stretched across my cheeks as she began to speak. I knew how the conversation would go. In the last few years of working with writers, I’ve had this same conversation more times than I can count. Heck, I, myself, have stood in the mirror and fed the dark wolf loads of self-doubt, self-loathing, resentment, more “woe is me” BS then I care to actually admit to being able to conjure up. We’re all capable; we’ve all been there. Understand, I wasn’t smiling because of her pain, quite the opposite. I was smiling because experience has taught me a hard truth—the human mind has an abundant way of creating problems in places that answers already exist. In the end, which attitude, which dog, you bring to the fight makes all the difference.

My dear, sweet friend had lost belief in herself. Her faith in many “things” had tumbled and been buried in fear, in worry, inaction, and the nastiest of phrases, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Every negative emotion, whose sole purpose is to pull us off our path, had deeply rooted itself in her mind, in her heart, and her belief system.

It’s amazing what happens when we allow negativity to take over. It places blinders over our eyes and sets in darkness. This attitude becomes a profound experience where every beautiful, tangible thing already working for us in our lives becomes overlooked.

After listening carefully to my friend, my questions to her were simple. “Where is the girl I know? Why are you being held captive by inaction and fear when you already have everything you need right at your fingertips? The person I know, the person that came into my life was on fire with a passionate attitude to create the life she had been nudged toward for many years, where—is—she?”

“I don’t know,” she answered.

In a pause of silence, I let her think about the questions and her answer. As the silence became painful, I swiftly began feeding her other wolf, the white, pure, beaming wolf, with every positive perspective for the negative tick list she had thrown at me. At that moment, she began to listen to what I’ve come to understand as the magic formula for life. Somewhere between the words and breath, the blinder of pessimism slowly rolled away.

You are probably saying, “Magic formula? What is it? How did you discover it? Why aren’t you sharing it now?”

I am. The magic formula, the secret, to creating the best life is precisely what the ancient tale spoke of—perspective. What we feed, grows.  That isn’t to say things won’t happen. They will. It’s to say the secret is how you show up to those “things” that genuinely affect the outcome. 

Think about your passion and desires. What do you want in life? What’s the soul-churning desire that pulls you out of bed each morning? What do you tell yourself about those dreams?

Evil wolf: My dream will never come true. I continue to work hard. Yet, nothing ever goes right. I’m failing. I’ve tried so hard, but still, nothing. I’m giving up.

The blinders engage. The stress mounts. The negativity bleeds into every realm of your life. You give your power away and sink into inaction and darkness. It’s a terribly isolating place to be.

Good wolf: I’m working so hard. Each day I wake up, and I am filled with gratitude to work toward my passion. I will never give up no matter how hard the journey becomes. I’ve got something to give, and I’ll continue regardless if it only touches one person or ten-thousand. This is my passion. This is my purpose.

It isn’t really magic, now is it?

You’ve begun shaking head and saying, “All of this is harder than it sounds! You don’t know me. You don’t know the battles I’ve been fighting. You don’t know how hard this life has been. You don’t know the injustice and unfairness that has been dumped into my lap!” Wrong. I do. Maybe I don’t know the way your story has been weaved together or the chain of events that has landed you deep in the dark wolf’s jaws, but in the end, there are only so many human emotions available to experience. Our stories may be different, but the roots, the lessons, all generally amount to the same universal language. So I ask you again, are you willing to be dragged into the dark forest, consumed, and lost forever?

Remember the story: The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf wins?”

You have a purpose. That nudge, that wild, wicked scream of “I want to do this or that” exists in you for a reason. It’s your calling. It’s where attitude and belief tow the road and meet talent along the way to create an unstoppable force. Removing the negatives open an infinite supply of action and reaction. So many give up on their dreams because it’s easier than doing the positive work. So many allow their excuses (negatives) to control their lives. They trick themselves into believing that the desires they have weren’t actually meant for them. If things aren’t happening for you, if the magic formula feels elusive, it is because that is what you are feeding. Are you going to K-O in life or are you delivering the K-O to the forces that try to stand in your way?

If you don’t like the answer, the results, this piece of your journey—change it. What do you have to lose? You are your own haymaker. Set the goal. Put it on paper. Tell yourself all the reasons why you are worthy. Remind yourself that this goal, no matter how lofty, is achievable. The very idea of a goal removes the negatives at hello. Pray about it. Meditate on it. Talk to your best friend. Do whatever it takes to make you work for you. Then, get out of your own way. 

As I said to my friend who had begun to slow down, to breathe, and befriend her own power, “No one can do the work for you. You are the only one in control of how this turns out. It isn’t the other person involved. It isn’t the things that have happened so far. You are on a journey. The only time that journey ends is in death or when you say it does. So, what will it be?”

The formula is simple. This life is meant to be epic. Anyone who has ever shown up and made their dreams manifest into reality never had a clear pathway to the goal, but what they did have was the good wolf on their side. It’s a matter of fostering the attitude, a shift of focus, a zoned intention of releasing the dark wolf.

I hear you still whispering, “But how?”

Close your eyes and draw a picture in your head. On the right side, it’s dark. A wolf as black as midnight stands, jaws snarled, ready to pounce. Its eyes dangerously peer in your direction. One false move and you will be lost. On the left, the sun begins to dawn against the blackness. A wolf as pure as the untouched snow emerges into the dawning light. Its beautiful presence captivates every emotion pulsing within you. It feels and looks like joy. It breathes peace, love, and profound resounding hope into every ounce of your being. It sticks emotions like serenity and humility to your bones with each moving step forward. This pureness embodies kindness and benevolence, empathy, generosity, and an unyielding truth that finds a way to persist no matter how many times the dark wolf tries paw forward. The next step is yours. Both wolves are starving. Their overall existence and yours depends solely on which wolf you feed. It really is that simple.


Copyright of Author Danielle A. Vann. Danielle A. Vann is an 18-times international award-winning author, speaker, and literacy advocate. More information about her and her work can be found at www.danielleavann.com