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The “Good Dog” Approach to Self-Improvement

Ever watch a skilled dog trainer work with a puppy? The trainer never ever punishes the sweet beastie for not sitting on the “sit” command, but rather rewards the dog with praise and treats the instant his furry butt hits the ground. The dog—smart pooch—gets the idea real fast, and proceeds to sit on cue with remarkable consistency.

 

It’s no different with employees. Any good manager knows that catching employees in the act of doing something right is far more effective in improving their performance and productivity, than constantly dinging them for doing something wrong.

 

So why is it that whenever you lose/gain an unwanted pound, or don’t quite manage all those push-ups, or get to work late (again), or have another fight with your S.O., that you bawl yourself out mightily! That you ride yourself hard for being such an idiot? Spineless wonder? Obvious loser?

 

You would never do that to your dog/cat/goldfish. Why in the world do you do it to yourself?

 

Because somewhere in your dim and distant (or near and close) past, someone somewhere convinced you that “bad” behavior must be punished, and that you’ll never learn unless you feel the pain. Yet, you’re a reasonable adult. You know that there are consequences to any behavior. Why not let the consequences guide your future behavior? Instead of insisting on demeaning, devaluing and generally mentally/emotionally abusing yourself into “good” behavior.

 

Be like the puppy: “Oh, I get it. Sitting gets me pets and treats. Not sitting gets me—uh—nothing.” And in the puppy world, “nothing” is no fun. Your turn: “Oh, having seconds on pie and ice cream gets me extra poundage on the old scale. Not having seconds gets me—uh—less poundage.” There. That’s really all you need; to see and understand the consequences.

 

But if you really want to up the ante, be your own inner trainer: reward yourself with praise and appropriate treats for the “sit.” When you drop that extra pound, do a full set of push-ups, get yourself into work on time, compromise with your significant other rather than fight, pat yourself on the back! Praise yourself, “Good job, self!” and reward yourself with a round of Candy Crush, or fun texting with a friend, or whatever says “Treat” to you.

 

It may feel strange and uncomfortable to you at first, to say nice things to yourself, but encouraging your desired behaviors, whatever they may be, with praise and “treats,” with compliments instead of dissing, works.

 

It works with animals, it works with employees, so, yes, it will work with you too.

 

And it feels a whole lot better than “Bad me!”

 

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