Derek Sivers

How many pets do you have?


I used to have too many pets.

Each time I adopted one, I was fully in love. I was enamored with the potential. Each new pet was meant to be my constant companion. So I would take it home, and love it. But eventually I would discover a new pet, and the process would repeat.

My house was overflowing. But it didn’t feel that way at the time. In each moment, I was giving just one pet my full attention. My life was full of so many loves.

Ah, but that’s seeing it from my point of view. What about from theirs? Each pet only got a little of my time each week. The rest of the time they were neglected, waiting for my attention.

I sadly realized this was unfair. The situation was hurting them. No pet was thriving. No pet was getting the attention it deserved. The situation was also hurting me. Anyone who wanted to come into my life had to compete for my attention, or love all of my pets. I was scattered and unavailable.

So, I started releasing them back into the wild. One at a time, reluctantly, I’d set one free, or find it a new home with someone who was really going to give this pet 100% of their love. I mourned the loss of possibility with each one as I said goodbye.

Although each goodbye was sad, it opened up more space. I enjoyed the freedom and feeling unconflicted.

Before, I’d glance at each pet and feel love but guilt for not giving it more time. Now, I picture what could have been, and just enjoy the daydream.

I let my last pet go, came home, and cleaned the house. There’s so much room for focus now.

Surprising end to this story: One pet kept coming back, no matter how many times I set her free. She refused to stay away. So now it’s just me and her, and I’m giving her all my time.

drawing of pets