Finding Contentment: Changing your thinking, adapting your behavior, turning your struggles into strengths! …and it works for your dog too!
This was the job I dedicated my life to at that tender and youthful age of 25.
After finishing a media production degree and then taking a year off to travel, I ‘landed’ back in London and I strived to make my way up a career ladder.
Retaining contentment in a job for that long is rare but to begin with, it was exciting and it all started well!
Exactly 50 days ago, after a quarter of a decade in the industry, I quit my well-paid job!
So what happened? It had all gone quite well for a number of years starting as trainee assistant and then moving into demo artist, software trainer and finally compositor, then ‘lead’ then ‘senior’.
I started to collect a string of credits on films that I was, at first, very proud of.
Going nowhere and shifting priorities…
At some point however I just stopped moving up! I stopped moving forward.
Co-incidentally, it was the exact time I stopped traveling to find work and the same time I decided to move forward with trying to have a baby. Shifting my priorities, I decided to become a single mom by choice. After 4 years of class 101 at the fertility clinic, it finally happened for me. I had a healthy baby girl.
You know what its like when you are so absorbed and involved in a difficult process!
There is little time to think. You grab whatever sleep you can and in between, you try to keep everyone alive!
Bringing up a baby alone with 3 dogs in the house was a challenge but an essential one. Not at one point did I consider it an option ‘not’ to cope!
Time moved on, I returned to my job. Finally, baby goes to daycare, then school and suddenly, as if by magic, you have a walking, talking, opinionated, self-sufficient human.
However, after nearly 19 years at one company (slowly sliding backwards rather than forwards) and around 25 years total in one industry, you see a lot of change. The real stand out thing for me, however, was that it just wasn’t ‘giving back’ anymore.
Its easy, isnt it? Easy to accept the paycheck, to keep going in every morning, to press the same buttons, to learn the correct responses (i.e.what people want you to say). Its the safe option but it can become soul destroying.
Throughout this entire process, what I left out was that I had been striving once more but in a different area. My first dog had brought me huge challenges, many questions and had set me off on a pursuit of knowledge into Canine Behavior and most importantly how the heck you change it.
In short, a deep delve into Dog Training !
Today I turned 50! Just 50 days after quitting that well-paid job!
Honestly, I’m not sure what the future holds…hopefully another 50 years.
So, what’s my plan? Oddly enough I’m looking at my own situation in a very similar way to how I view the dogs I have worked with.
Home is where the heart is…
Feeling comfortable and at ease in your surroundings is essential to setting good foundations on which to build. That’s where I’d start with a dog and it turns out a lot of this stuff is not species specific.
Starting with the home, I tidied, I changed things, I re-planned, I switched furniture. I created a living space I was happy and comfortable or at least I’m still actively working on it 🙂 I set up the spare room extension to rent out which eased financial concerns. I set up a veggie garden!
For the dogs…
Mirroring that advice for dog owners, I suggest you limit access or visibility to the outside street if motorbikes, passersby and other distractions might keep your dog barking and bouncing at the windows. In addition to easing the stress, adding enrichment (interesting things for the dog to do), especially when left alone is essential.
Enrichment and Purpose
When you do a google search on ‘purpose’ and ‘enrichment’, it comes up with two kinds of results. One is centered on enrichment in respect to people(often children) and one with respect to animals.
Check out how similar they are. Enrichment is ‘providing opportunities to pursue their own area of interests and strengths’. ‘…a principle that seeks to enhance the quality of life…’
I find new hobbies! An hour long walk each day (weather allowing), time to fill in a crossword or similar and a swim on Fridays with my best girl! I enjoy a project (or 10) so starting a new dog training business creates opportunities to work through many, many challenges. I grow vegetables and set a weight goal with a new lifestyle change and diet!
For the dogs…
Turns out dogs benefit from enriching activities and puzzles too! Adding a Kong and another food puzzle to the day whilst saying goodbye to the boring food bowl that last 30seconds. Creating opportunities to ‘think’ and be challenged mentally as well as physically by throwing in some training sessions into the walk.
Changing your thinking!
Its easy to get stuck, not only in your behavioral habits but also in your thinking habits. You need to adapt the way you think, or at least challenge it, before you can get more flexible with your habits!
When you have been stuck in a bit of a rut for some time its hard to step back and be more flexible with your thinking. I’m not just talking about positive thinking either. I’m speaking of flexibility! Finding it within yourself to let go of preconceptions and re-examine what is working and what isn’t.
Can we recognize that different approaches might yield positive results? Keep data!
In short, don’t just do and think as you always have just because you always have!
For the dogs…
Again with the dogs!
A reactive dog (one that may bark and lunge upon the sight of another) has been stuck in a rut … behaviorally.
It’s a hard habit to break!
One of the really creative approaches to this was introduced to me in a training course by Absolute Dogs. Teaching ‘concepts’ as well as specific behavior changes can go a long way towards adapting how a dog thinks generally.
Let’s look at games which enhance a flexible approach!
What does a dog chose to do upon approach to a novel object?
We can reward him for a different more flexible choice each time.
The first time he is rewarded for 2 feet on, the second for a nose touch, the third for knocking it over, etc,etc. The dog learns that flexibility can also be rewarded and he can practice that in a context away from the habitual reactivity first.
Turning struggles into strengths.
Now is the time to start looking at specifics, those little every day struggles.
The things that challenge us can be looked at from two directions, as a problem OR as an opportunity to learn and conquer!
How do I become financially secure whilst still doing the stuff I love?
Can I create a habit of scheduling EVERYTHING!
If its not in the schedule, it doesn’t get done!
Finding the endurance to create solutions both in business and personal life.
Can they learn to approach an old problem with a new solution?
Rather than barking and lunging at the sight of another dog, can they learn to adapt that behaviour and still feel ok about things?
Finding contentment is an essential part of life!
Changing your thinking and finding it within yourself to feel empowered enough to find new solutions to old problems can be life changing!
Doing so lays the most solid foundation upon which to build, both from a personal level and as a basis for a dog training behavior modification program turning struggles into strengths!