Are You Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Is rigid thinking or stubborn behavior sabotaging your success

Janice Tovey
3 min readOct 16


Photo by Robert Gramner on Unsplash

Are you barking up the wrong tree? Is rigid and narrow thinking harming your chance for success?

If you were a dog and you thought you saw a squirrel run up a tree, that pesky rodent that has been taunting you for days, well then yes, that large maple on your front lawn may be the perfect target.

However, what if you got it wrong, it was a deciduous, not coniferous and you were blinded by an obsession to be right. You believe that what you think is gospel, and considering another perspective is something you are not willing to entertain.

The definition of barking up the wrong tree is to make the wrong choice about one’s wants, or to go after an erroneous course of action to get it. So, if you are barking up the wrong tree, it could indicate that you have entirely missed the target and are completely off the path.

If you are barking up the wrong tree you will never be successful. You will waste a lot of valuable time and energy.

Barking up the wrong tree is known as an idiom. An idiom is a sentence or phrase that denotes a non-literal meaning. For example, if you tell an actor to “break a leg” you don’t really want them to fracture their femur. You are wishing them good luck.

In Eric Barker’s book BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE, he says that:

“wrong assumptions, mistaken, misleading, or misguided we have all come to the wrong conclusion about other people. It is an embarrassing and humiliating experience. The metaphor of barking up the wrong tree applies to this experience.”

If you are barking up the wrong tree you are engaging in a behavior that will not garnish the result you desire. You are either not right about the rationale for something, or the intended method of achieving it.

In other words, we are barking up the wrong tree when our personal ideas, or beliefs about something or someone are fictitious, not based on facts or are delusional.

Here’s a personal example:



Janice Tovey

My passion is writing. I also love reading, teaching, animals, nature, music, and humor. I am curious about everything and enjoy writing about all things.