Making progress is the important thing when you’re looking for changes

This was Grace at our second agility lesson. Even though it was only a little more than a year ago, it's hard to remember how difficult it was for her to even walk on the A-Frame. As you see, she was exiting very quickly, not even going two steps up! There were lots and lots of baby steps involved in helping her feel comfortable with this new piece of equipment.

The question often comes up: “Is it possible for someone to change?”

After just a few months of lessons, she was off and running without any worries on the A-Frame. Photo by Annie Card.

I believe it’s possible. However, it’s difficult and the circumstances surrounding it have a major impact on the success of the endeavor. First, we need to establish a realistic timeframe; another aspect is to focus on small improvements, without expecting for transformations to occur in too short a period of time. None of us can make huge changes overnight that will last.

Suzanne Clothier shared an excellent example of this at the recent workshop I attended with her. I can’t even remember what she was teaching the dog, but that’s not the important part of the story. She was working alongside another trainer at the time, who she felt was rushing the process. So Suzanne took a stopwatch and timed the length of time between requests and action on the dog’s part. The other trainer was ready to step in and attempt some type of correction or adjustment after about 10 seconds, where Suzanne waited at least twice that long. After a series of requests, Suzanne got out of the dog what she wanted only after two minutes. She could see a progression of positive steps from the dog, so the longer intervals weren’t a big deal for her. What she really wanted to see were improvements — a progression of positive events is what’s important.

I was part of a very similar conversation this past week when working with an organization. One person mentioned that the speed of learning has to do with the method of teaching. If the teacher is able to adapt to the student more closely, the information will be processed more rapidly. Sometimes we can be so focused on when we think something should happen, that we lose track of what’s possible for the other person.

Look for baby steps. Those will lead to sustainable change.

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4 comments

  1. This is an excellent observation. Its not enough to simply know a thing, but to be able to teach it in a way that is uniuqly accesisble to an individual persons mode of relating to the world. Is that what you mean? Dont mind my horrible spelling. 🙂

  2. Yes, that’s what I meant. We all learn differently and we won’t be effective if we ignore how the other person is receiving the information (versus focusing on how we’re giving the information). Great to have you back!

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