On a recent trip to Miami, my wife and I decided to take Jack, our six-year-old Shih Tzu on the plane with us. Jack is a long-time family companion, and he was the proper size such that he could travel with us in the cabin. We had never flown with a pet before and we were slightly apprehensive about how the process would unfold.  The airline requirements were that the dog had to fly in a mesh bag of certain, ample proportions and that he had to be placed under the seat in front of us during flight.

When we boarded the plane, we monitored Jack every few moments to see how he would react. When it was time for taking off, the stewardess indicated that he had to be stowed in the bag and placed under the seat. Jack didn’t like the bag at all, and he hated being separated from us. In fact, when we zipped the mesh door, he fought the bag every way he could. He tried standing up to push the bag apart. He tried backing his way out, thinking there was an alternate exit to his container. He struggled and yapped and carried on to the point that I considered disembarking and postponing our travel until we could find a solution.

It occurred to my wife to take the shoe off one of her feet and place it inside the bag with Jack. To my amazement and within seconds, his agitation had dissipated. He lay down, went to sleep, and was peaceful for the entire two-and-a-half hours of flight time. Never had I witnessed a better-behaved dog than our Jack.

What did my wife do to create such a miraculous change in behavior? The answer is found in an understanding of purpose.  To better understand the purpose of Shih Tzu’s, one must recall history dating back to the 16thcentury, when Tibetan monks first offered a pair of this unique breed to the royalty of the Ming Dynasty. These “Lion Dogs” (in Chinese) served as warmers for the emperors. They were placed in their coats and at their feet. They were born not to be hunters or gatherers, but simply to be givers of affection and companionship. Their petite size, confident demeanor, regal composure, and plush, soft fur made them perfect additions to a royal environment. Jack, as a descendant of such prestige, wouldn’t tolerate being confined to a bag, much less being denied his right to sit at his empress’ feet. He fought until he connected with his purpose. Today, I still marvel at Jack’s determination and fortitude. He continues to travel with us to many locations, and his loyal companionship is of the highest caliber. Jack is fulfilling what he was born to do.

As we reflect on our own lives, we can ask ourselves, “Are we doing what we were born to do?” Often we find ourselves confined to the repetition of routine without reflecting on whether our activity is leading toward greater purpose.  Let’s find a way to break through the “bag” and focus on what brings meaning to our existence. Meaning is often found in building relationships with family, friends, clients, and colleagues, looking for ways to add value to others.

Jack’s life lesson remains: insist on adding value to others and finding ways to connect with purpose. When we do, we’ll struggle less. We’ll be more fulfilled. We’ll get where we need to go faster. And we’ll all enjoy the journey more.

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