Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The first step towards behaviour change is an awareness of what is already happening. What if you finish the month one step closer to where you want to be with your dog?
What if you set and achieved one dog training goal every month? By the end of the year, you would be 12 steps closer to having the relationship with your dog that you have been dreaming of.
Did you know that there is new research by Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews showing that writing out and sharing your goals with a friend is the best way to achieve them?
Confession moment! I’ve had a hard time falling in love with the planning process, until I discovered a productivity system that is working for me. Setting monthly and daily goals is becoming a habit that is helping my dogs and I achieve so much more.
Some months the goals have been simple to reach and sometimes they have stretched me. Interestingly, it is the stretch goals that I haven’t always accomplished where I’ve learned the most.
The system I’m following is simple, 30 mins at most, and everyone can do it.
Review what went well
This can feel like a vulnerable place to start. We are hard-wired to look for ‘danger’ and make tomorrow safer. Focusing on the negative, what is or could go wrong, may have kept us alive in ancient times, but this system can get in the way of planning today. If you can’t work out what went well for yourself, ask your training partners. P.S. Accept their compliments and positive feedback when it is offered!
Set your monthly goal
Choose something that you enjoy doing with your dog, what feels like fun for you? Three training sessions each week, reading a lesson from a course, practicing a new game?
Write your goal in the present tense
For example, it is the 30th of September, and my dog can. Or it is the 30th of September, my dog and I have. This helps brings your goal to life, firing up the circuits in your brain that need to take action to achieve it. If you find it helpful collect some images that represent completition of your goal. Focus on the picture, imagine the sights, sounds and scents. What does it feel like to be achieving your goal?
Break your goal down
It is tempting to stop after planning the monthly goal, but you need to break the goal down into weekly actions. What do you need each week to achieve your goal? From here you can break your weekly goals down into daily goals. I ask myself ‘what is the most important action (MIA) I need to take today? Writing down the MIA, and keeping it in front of me, means that it is more likely to get done.
Schedule time for your goals in the diary
Another step it is tempting to skip, and from my experience this especially likely with dog training. We assume we will find time to fit it in, or we set unrealistic goals such as ‘I’ll do some training every day’. Schedule your goals into your diary as you would other appointments. Set reminders and alerts to help you show up. Join up with friends or classmates for accountability partners.
Review anything that didn’t go so well
For those of us prone to perfectionism, this can be challenging. I can testify that making myself complete this step has provided the most learning. Thanks to this step, I know I’m prone to over committing myself and underestimating how long something will take! These days I set more realistic, achievable goals.
Create a 'not just now' list
Until I began keeping this list, I was unaware of how many thoughts and ideas I carried around in my head. A 'not just now' list is different to a 'to do' list. The 'to do' list keeps track of things that need to be done, pay the gas bill, buy eggs, enter agility competition etc. The 'not now' list provides a storage space for all those things that steal our focus, time and attention away from the task in hand.
Planning = freedom
Every habit is run by a thought
Every thought is run by a belief
Thoughts determine what we FEEL
which determines what we DO
The first step towards behaviour change is an awareness of what is already happening. The first two months of this planning system revealed thoughts around ‘rigidity’, being restricted or trapped by plans. In fact, the opposite is true, planning with this system is freeing. With only two or three MIA’s everyday I am accomplishing more and have time for the things I enjoy the most.
My challenge to you is to take 20 – 30mins, sit down and plan your month out. I promise that if you stick with it then you’ll finish the month one step closer to where you want to be with your dog.
Can I help?
Think your dog might be struggling with their emotions, a 1:1 session would give us time to talk about what is happening and put some tailored strategies into place. work-with-me
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