Old Habits Die Hard

Ahhh, as we gear up for the Holidays and head into the New Year, we all look forward to a fresh start. Even Louie, my rescue pup, needs a fresh start. 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. One evening, I started wrestling with him—all in fun, of course. While this may seem small and insignificant, this activity had ramifications that became clear later.

The next morning while working, I noticed Louie had slinked off to another part of the house. I went upstairs 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, “Oh, 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 aloud. 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. But this was only the beginning. Other odd behaviors started happening, including rebelliously lingering when I would say, “Here.” 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. I asked myself if I had been consistent with my leadership and training, or did I see some improvement and decide to ease off? I had to admit, I had taken the pressure off.

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 with our New Year resolutions, our 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, review our goals, 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.

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