Dynamics Of Change: It’s The Little Things!

me and Evi“Nonna, do you ever get sad because you live alone?” asked my sweet six-year-old granddaughter. My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of going from being raised in a family of eight full-blooded Italians (we have since grown exponentially) to becoming a very busy single mom of an active child with lots of friends. I smiled and responded, “No, Evi, I’m never sad to be living alone!”

“Well, you’re never really alone,” she responded. “You have Louie to keep you company.”

Ahhh, yes, and there’s always Louie! I am very grateful for Louie, and our time together is increasingly rewarding for me. But I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that he has reverted back to some of his earlier unacceptable behaviors.

It all started with my noticing his unusually boundless amount of energy. We did our normal long walks and he had play dates with his friends. But he was still anxious for more activity. While tossing the ball to play fetch one evening, I started wrestling with him—all in fun, of course (I can just see his trainer, Zig, shaking his head). While this may seem small and insignificant, this activity had ramifications that became clear.

The next morning I was working when I noticed my pup had slinked off to another part of the house. I went upstairs (and not quietly so he heard me approaching) only to find him nicely nestled on my bed! He didn’t budge when I noticed him although he clearly saw my body language and heard my expressive tone. He just looked at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, “Hey mom!”

“Get off that bed, now!” I said and with that he jumped off, and laid on the floor, belly up. Okay, sweet dog, let’s just get back on track, I mumbled to myself. A few hours later, I was in the kitchen and when I went back downstairs, there was Louie sitting on my couch. Now, my dog is not allowed on the furniture, the one exception being a love seat on which he is allowed to sit and look out the window. That’s it. This was only the beginning. Other odd behaviors started happening. He wouldn’t walk alongside me, and he was constantly pulling to get ahead of me. I caught him a few more times on my bed, and he would rebelliously linger when I would say, “Here.” Has he entered adolescence so soon, I asked myself? What on earth is going on with him?

And then it hit me. Ken Blanchard and his team have long taught on the dynamics of change. One dynamic is that when the pressure is off, we revert back to our original behaviors. Couple this with the fact that research shows it takes 21 consecutive days to form a habit and for a new course of action to be ingrained into a natural pattern of behavior. At first I reasoned that I was LONG past the 21-day mark with this dog, and he should be getting it by now. But then I asked myself if I had been consistent with my modification training for 21 consecutive days, or did I see improvement by week two and decide to ease off? I had to admit that I had taken the pressure off long before the 21 days.

And while this may seem unremarkable, I should have remembered that wrestling with Louie is a no-no. We were playing like he plays with his dog friends, and I am not his dog friend. I am his alpha. That behavior led him to believe we were on equal ground, and that he had full permission to sit wherever he wanted. Because the pressure was off, he didn’t think I was serious about the behavior modifications, and he reverted back to his original behavior.

Isn’t that just like us? We see a little improvement, and we slack off on holding ourselves and others accountable. We do this in exercise programs, healthy eating, sleeping enough, managing people and projects at work, and in nurturing our relationships. To make it worse, we often not only ease off, but also we latch onto the latest and greatest leadership idea. And we never really stay with the course of improvement we’ve started and for which we have asked others to hold us accountable. The best gifts mentors and leaders can give to others are both encouragement AND accountability. Even more important is to press through, especially during the times when things have improved enough and you think you can slack off. That is the time others need you most.

Louie and I had to go back to the basics and stick with the program. He needs a leader mom who will stay the course and lovingly keep enough pressure on to see him experience the behavior change needed to live a happy life! As I’m writing, he’s lovingly staring at me with his big brown eyes as if to assure me he is never too far and always has me in his sight! And for that, I am truly grateful.

Lou and the stain

NOTE: Louie’s stumped! There is a rust stain of some sort next to Louie’s left paw. That stain has been on my driveway for 3 weeks.  And it just happens to look like Louie! Oh the little things in life that make a huge difference in our world!

Oops, I Did It Again!

2014-06-27 21.33.41I know you’ve been there. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on bad behavior… BAM! You do it again, and before you know it, you’re in the doghouse!

That’s happened to me on a number of occasions. My leader mom has been pretty good with this thing she calls grace (unmerited divine assistance or favor), yet I was disheartened by something she said one Saturday afternoon. I don’t think she meant for me to hear what she said, which was, “I’m so weary of this behavior, Lou!”

My heart sank at the thought that I had disappointed her, yet it was her sigh of exasperation that really caused me pain. I wondered what I could have done to cause such a reaction. I thought everything was great between us so I was terribly confused. I wondered, “Does this mean she’s going to get rid of me? Will she find me a new home, or worse, will she take me back to a shelter? I sank into despair with worry!

I tried to remember what I might have done wrong. We went for a walk, I ate, we walked again, we came back, I went downstairs to my crate, and mom said her usual, “I’ll be right back, Louie!” I have a really nice safe place to hang out and it has a great view of the backyard. All was calm so I took a nap. Then, all of a sudden, I awoke with a start. I heard voices, and noise, and steps going to and fro in my house and I had no idea what was going on. I thought my mom was in trouble and needed my help. So I frantically pawed at the gate of my crate but couldn’t get out. The noise was getting louder, almost deafening. I was really worried that bad people were trying to take her away. This went on for hours and for every second I could, I let them know I was miffed. I warned them bark after bark that I would be getting out of my cage any minute and there would be you-know-what to pay! My mind was racing and I couldn’t escape the awful thoughts! I just knew I couldn’t let them take my mom!

Then the upstairs door opened. I held my breath and was perfectly still because I knew they were coming for me. I acted like I was sleeping but kept one eye focused the steps. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was my mom! Alive and well so I jumped for joy! But when she opened the cage, she put my leash on me. Now that’s odd! Ohhhh, I get it. They made you come down here to get me, put the leash on and that way they don’t have to deal with me…well, I’ll show them!

As best I could, leash and all, I ran up the stairs ahead of my mom (oops, big mistake—I’m not allowed to do that) and sure enough, there they were; the people trying to kidnap my mom! They were smiling and cooing at me, but I wasn’t fooled. One even said I wasn’t at all like she imagined me, based on the blog. I puffed up the hair on my back and nodded my head because I knew I scared her and that was my intent. My mom said something about being a creative writer but I ignored her and made them leave the house.

I thought my mom would be so proud that I came to her rescue. But that was when she expressed her exasperation with me. Apparently, I was completely mistaken about her kidnappers. They were actually her friends. Turns out they weren’t plotting to take her away, but rather they were all laughing and having a great time. Ohhh, my! I lowered my head and was terribly disappointed in myself.

I’m sure you know what it’s like when you get a crazy thought in your head and you just can’t get rid of it. One thought leads to another and before you now it, you’ve made some big assumptions and lost all perspective and blown the situation out of proportion. People lose friends, families sever ties, and jobs are lost all the time because one or both parties involved let their thinking get away with them. So I apologized. I was sincere and truly meant I was sorry. I also took complete responsibility for my behavior. I looked at my mom and was hopeful she could tell me what I could do to make it right. I thought maybe the people would come back. But they didn’t.

I promised I would not behave that way again. Of course, my mom forgave me. In fact, she even admitted that she did not go through our normal routine of accepting people into our house. That routine includes my sitting by the door, her slowly opening it, and allowing me to “get to know” the person coming into my home. Because this situation was different, I was much less welcoming. She, too, took responsibility for her part, and of course I forgave her.

I’m so glad my mom and I can have those tough conversations as soon as a situation arises—no guessing games. But I have a long way to go and thanks to her leadership, I am well on my way! So who would like to be my next victim, I mean guest? I’m practicing my manners at the door. It helps if you bring a dog that I like or one of the alpha pups…I like them coming into my home! And if I blow it, you get to see me practice my humblest apology!

NOTE: Be aware of what you’re thinking and capture negative or destructive thoughts the minute they occur. And if you blow it, own it! A sincere apology is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others. If you need help, Louie is happy to demonstrate the proper way to apologize in this video.