I am not a people psychologist. My comments then are based on my own experience as a dog behavior “pro” that gives advice to my clients as to how better understand their dogs (from an ethological perspective), as well as teaching and training their dogs.
My other lens of investigation is my hands-on experience as a human being living in this world. In other words, someone else can be writing about me not being compliant when the roles switch, and I am now the one taking advice in learning something new or putting something in practice. Going back to the main reason why my clients are not compliant when they have training plans and management protocols in place for them to follow, is very simple.
Okay, I will spare you the suspense and just tell you that they fail: be-cause the-y aaaa-r-e huuu-m-an!
I recently listened to an audio book which title picked my curiosity: Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop. Yeah, I know, you are now curious too! His editor is thrilled they came up with this title- I am sure. In any event, the reason I was actually curious as to what Bishop had to say was not so much because of the title, but indeed because of the subtitle: “Get out of your head and into your life.” Good one, huh?
Among the many salient nuggets of advice there where some that hit home with me. Not only because I have been “there” but because my clients are “there” a lot of the times too. I wanted to see if by listening to this book, I could find a better understanding as to why they fail to do the exercises in between sessions, or follow the specific directions or…
Could I learn to motivate them so they could reach their goals? Could I also become more understanding while still motivate them to reach their goals; which frankly, have become “my” goals with a sense of urgency and meaning?
So here is one of the nuggets that spoke to me loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, YOU ARE YOUR ACTIONS! Boom! Right where it hurts!
I have heard of the “you are not your thoughts” maxim in the context of meditation and Buddhist thought but this motivational coach- with a very heavy Scottish accent, took it to another level. As I understand it, we can spend as much time pondering upon a problem, wishing our luck was different- better. Mustering a plan of action, blaming ourselves or our spouse (and of course the dog!) for the state of affairs, but until we do not begin to take meaningful actions to change the situation, we are not truly showing up to live our lives.
Bishop also makes the point that people who get things done and all those aaam-aa-ziiin-g individuals whom appear to have everything easy in their lives do just that: They take action.
Their actions might be devoid of “fuzzy” emotion, because at times, they frankly would rather do something else! Or perhaps they do not feel confident in their efforts, or the results their efforts might yield. But, in spite of their feelings, they move forward with the plan of action.
Teaching our dogs new behaviors as well as us learning how not to put the dog in “x” and “y” situation, for example, because we know the dog cannot “handle it” requires that we show up. Show up even when we continue to feel a bit hopeless, tired or need someone to give us support and direction along the way.
Clearly, there are a many more reasons as to why clients are not compliant. One can argue that we are just too busy, too spent, too… However, if we pay close attention we can see that all these “reasons” (frankly excuses most of the time) are all related to not taking the appropriate action. Why do we choose the multitude of activities that appear to fill every moment of the day? Why did we choose the dog that we knew we had no time for because we travel so often? Why do we make the choice of crashing in front of the TV for endless hours when we can make a choice and use that time differently- regardless of how we are feeling about it?
When we choose to identify (or define ourselves) by our actions- as the author prescribes, we are cognizant that in order to reach certain goals we MUST make choices. We must be men and women of action! Of appropriate action that supports our most precious dreams and goals. In essence, we must choose to define ourselves by our actions and much less so by our thoughts.