What My Golden Retriever Taught Me About Life

By Melanie Sue Hicks – March 1, 2023

Two years ago, I stood in a New Mexico desert and watched happiness unfold. My golden retriever Molly, the usual solemn old soul of a puppy, was running at full speed across the landscape, her long legs in a fully extended gallop. She circled the cactus and zig-zagged through the scrub brush. Every so often, she’d stop and look at me with puffed-out ears and a smile I’d never seen before. Then, she’d begin again.

On the third day of this ritual, something clicked — this is the first time she has been able to do what she was built to do; the first time she had the space and freedom to be the creature she was made to be. This Molly was born in a kennel, moved to her first owner’s tiny apartment, then landed with us where she has a backyard only big enough to make a few strides before hitting a fence.

I stood frozen in awe — of her speed, grace and sheer delight. It was a living metaphor for my life; the daily fight to live the life I was meant to live, to be the person I’m made to be.

It’s easy to stay in the safe lanes of life, to live a life dictated by societal or family expectations and norms. But we can’t let that happen! Being our fully authentic selves is the only way to live with a sense of purpose and direction. Pursuing your dream life fills you with zest, energy and passion for the day ahead.

But how do we find that joy? Let’s start small, with some simple Molly-recommended tips for living your dream life:

1. Seek Out New Experiences Daily  

If there’s one thing I learn daily from Molly, it’s the excitement of trying new things. Molly is the kind of pup that will race you to the car door in anticipation of new sights, smells or experiences. Her excitement isn’t only palpable but infectious. It’s a daily reminder to get out of my rut and find adventure in the uncomfortable. 

Tapping into the power of new things can be difficult. It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone and experience something different. However, there are so many benefits to taking risks. By trying new activities, you can discover hidden talents and interests that could open the door to a new job, hobby or group of friends.  

Finally, taking risks helps you become a more well-rounded person. It allows you to grow your understanding and tolerance of others, and it lightens your soul to live the fullest version of yourself. 

Molly sitting on the couch

Courtesy of Melanie Sue Hicks

2. Hang Your Head Out the Window

We’ve all seen it; the tongue waving, the hair blowing in the wind, the endlessly happy smile on the face. Yep, that’s a dog with her head out the window, taking in the view. 

When you chase your dreams, you feel alive and happy. You’re more likely to achieve your goals by boosting motivation and passion for life. Pursuing dreams and taking in the full view of life will be more fulfilling and satisfying.

3. Prance Your Way Through Life

Like most goldens, Molly doesn’t just walk from place to place — she prances. The lightness in her step is mesmerizing for its joyful symbolism. Remember a day when you felt like that? Maybe you achieved that goal you’d been working hard for or had a wonderful interaction with a friend or loved one. Or perhaps you just felt beautiful in your skin. Those days are magical. 

We all have a version of Molly’s prance in us, and the more often we harness that power, the better our life will be. Seeing life through that lens has a plethora of benefits, from building confidence and self-esteem to feeling more in control of your life and destiny. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself, regardless of accomplishments or failures. 

The routines of daily life can chip away at our true joy if we let them. Taking a cue from Molly helps keep our perspective in check. She reminds us life is as simple or complex as we allow it to be. Most importantly, she reminds us that what happens to us is out of our control, but it’s our daily choice to find joy in this life.

About the Author

Melanie Sue Hicks with dog.

Melanie Sue Hicks is an adventure-seeking, social impact advocate dedicated to helping others overcome fear and live their dharma. Her debut memoir Incongruent; Travel, Trauma, Transformation hits shelves in March 2023. As an empathy-driven author and education, nonprofit and workplace expert, she has been interviewed and published in more than two dozen magazines and websites including Forbes, Marie Claire, Authority Magazine, See Beyond Magazine, Thrive Global, The District and Doctor’s Life Magazine.


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