Living Your Best Life: It’s the One You Feed


July 24, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

I recently heard about this legend of a conversation between an old Cherokee Indian and his grandson. The message is great but the storytelling is even better.

One evening, an old Cherokee 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 – It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good – It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith. ”

The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

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

I think that we all have a tendency to feed both wolves, but we always feed one more than the other. It’s usually the wolf that we feed the most that tends to determine the quality of our life. If you start to pay attention, you’ll also notice that while you may not feed the evil wolf a sizzling steak, you might be throwing it some scraps.

Here are some examples of some emotions applicable to this story:

Anger: Somebody cuts you off in traffic and you start yelling profanities.

Envy: Your friend or colleague is slightly or greatly ahead of you in his or her career.

Jealousy: Someone has acquired a new car, girlfriend, or some other possession you think will bring you happiness.

Greed: You might have tons of money, but you still don’t see abundance in your life.

Arrogance: You start to see yourself above other people because of your station in life (ivy league degrees, large bank accounts, etc.).

You also have an ability to feed the other wolf. When you can learn to make feeding this wolf your dominant tendency it can dramatically improve your quality of life:

Peace: Peace seems to be at the root of almost every personal development resource I’ve come across.

Love: Ziggy Marley sang “Love is my Religion”, a message that tells us to treat the world around us with unconditional love.

Hope: Hope is what keeps us going and keeps us motivated to be our best.

Compassion: Compassion opens up the doors to the hearts and mind of the world around you.

Faith: If you feed all of the characteristics of the wolf above with complete faith, you overcome the battle inside of you.

I admit, I love this kind of stuff. This idea of the inclinations you feed being a conscious choice is pretty realistic. It also makes complete sense that the more one works on a habit the easier it becomes. [If you were to stop eating fried food, each week that passes you would crave it less and less.]

But I also don’t think the idea above is to live exclusively within this “Good” sphere of life. It is a constant battle and I’m not sure how much quality of life there is without stumbling and letting ourselves be human.

There is richness when we’re not perfect and not everything is reconciled.
 I like to mix it up sometimes and not always try to reconcile some behaviors that may be contradictory. To me, enjoying life entails a non-linear but continuous journey to get more out of life.

The main takeaway for me with this legend is the more we manage negative tendencies, the more enjoyable life becomes overall.

What’s your personal perspective on this story?

Written on 7/24/2009 by Srinivas Rao. Srinivas is a volunteer for the Quality of Life Project. The website shares best practices on getting the most out of life from well known types like Richard Branson and Tom Skerritt to lesser known but equally interesting individuals. Srinivas also writes at Photo Credit: Laenulfean



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