The Fight of Two Wolves Within You

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

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

First Lesson: The Fight is Eternal

The first part of the story is telling us that we can never get rid of the first wolf, the first wolf will always be there. The fight between two wolves is eternal.

Both wolves will always be there. This applies to our emotions, behaviors, habits, and every other aspect of our life.

I used to fall into the trap of trying hard to banish the negative side of myself. I would force myself to eat 100% healthy all the time, beat myself up for relaxing even for just a minute, and tried to get rid of those negative thoughts in my head.

The truth is that none of us is living in pure bliss. What we can do is to act in spite of those negative feelings or hard times. We can take those fears, those worries, those doubts and move forward anyway. That’s how you feed the second wolf.

  • Feeling unmotivated to workout, workout anyway.
  • Not feeling confident in your upcoming sales presentation, do it anyway.
  • Not happy with your spouse, show him/her your love

Imagine if we’re paralyzed by the first wolf, by doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, and getting nowhere. We’d lose the momentum to move forward and indirectly we’d be feeding the evil wolf!

Besides, what will you be doing by telling yourself you haven’t accomplished anything? How will you feel when you get nothing done all the time? You won’t just stop at where you are; you’ll be moving backward! And the evil wolf will get stronger day by day.

Small Actions Build Momentum

Now, start telling yourself you’re worthy, begin to believe in your ability and act in spite of fears and doubts, in spite of constraints and challenges. One step forward will always be a step ahead even it’s tiny.

Instead of doubting yourself and doing nothing, you can try to learn new things and expand yourself at a slower pace. Instead of focusing on the fears within, start with ONE thing you should (and could) do that is right in front of you.

  • Want to lose 100 pounds and achieve your fitness goals? Start by walking for 15 minutes a day if you haven’t yet. Then start learning squats and maybe push-ups with your body weight and make slow progress from there.
  • Want to build a community with a vast audience? Focus on delivering quality content, and start building ONE audience at a time. Provide value to ONE person at a time and grow your audience from there.
  • Want to start a business? Start by validating your idea and find one customer. Then optimize your product and offering from there.

Start Feeding The Right Wolf

One truth to remember is that it’s so much easier to feed the first wolf — the first wolf is there to encourage the easier options in life. It’s easier to complain, procrastinate, dismiss, ignore, and give up.

There is almost no effort required to do those things, and you’re getting the reward with the sensation of relieving and instant gratification without much an action.

The second wolf is very different; it’s picky, it’s harder to feed. It’s challenging, tiring and time-consuming to do things like learning, teaching, inspiring, sharing or simply sticking to a new behavior. These things take so much energy, effort, momentum, and guts. And you don’t usually see immediate results from them.

Which wolf you choose to feed will define who you are, and we all know we should feed the second wolf — even if it’s harder. Feeding the second wolf is how we end up feeling a sense of accomplishment and success at the end of the day.

By conquering the temptation of the first wolf we opt for a much more challenging (but right) option in life.

Feeding Both Wolves

In the Cherokee world, however, there’s another version of the story and it ends this way:

Feeding Both Wolves in Your Mind

The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.” and the story goes on:

“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and will always fight the white wolf.”

“But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities — tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking–that I have need of at times. These are the very things the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.”

“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life.”

“Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowledge that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance.”

“Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.”

“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

11 comments… add one
  • Gomathi Priya

    really nice.
    i got solution for internal struggle within me.
    it helped me a lot .thankyou…………….a lot

  • Paul Christens

    This second ending proves to be the more difficult, and more challenging. Beautifull!

  • ASAP CiCi

    I REALLY love this story. It has helped me get through some of my toughest times. It adds meaning to my life and I try to apply it everyday. I can definitely relate to starving the wolves. It’s funny because I interpreted this the exact same way on my OWN without even coming to this site. I really love analogies, it’s something I’m good at deciphering. Again, I really appreciate this story, I love symbolism as well. The yin and yang makes so much sense.

  • Joel Donfak

    Beautiful article! Very interesting piece of reading!

  • Amanda

    Great post, great story! Thanks for sharing!

  • Brenda Stevens

    perfectly written and found JUST at the right time <3
    thank you

  • Adam

    Hey Dean! Love the version you’ve shared here. I am writing a curriculum and I am discussing the many versions of this story and addressing the questions and debate about its source(s). Can you please share the source(s) you’ve used with me? Thank you in advance!

  • Soane (Jonny) Makalio

    Thank you for the beautiful story. It helps me bless my life… Wrestling with behavior of flesh (Galatian5:17) spirit and flesh fighting… Who do I feed the most?. That’s who win.

  • Owen Burke

    I’ve been fighting my whole life. I am the deer who has the ferocity and fire of a lion. Lately, as I tire. I notice the Lion is more taking control and I Do Not want that!! I think my spirit and my body are at war. I am my own worst enemy. Thank you for this story!! I’ve come a long way, inch by inch, loneliness my constant companion with no self-worth. I am my own worst enemy. Now I recognize this may be the final battle within to find a balance and then accept each day as it comes. Lord knows how tired I’ve become. I will take goodness from your story. Thanks again


    So awesome and so profound it’s a WOW! Thank you.

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