change in the new year

Change in 2023 May Be Easier than You Think

During a typical week my dog Zuzu and I go on morning walks, as has become our routine over the last two years since she came to live with us. Frankly, these walks often end up being as frustrating as they are enjoyable — both for her and me.

I’ve always loved walking with a dog. Being in nature or just simply outdoors, no matter the weather, leaves me feeling refreshed, inspired, and happy. But that hasn’t been the case on our walks.

ZuzuA Not So Leisurely Stroll

What Zuzu really wants to do is run – not walk. That makes it hard for me, attempting to manage the constant pulling and tugging. Though it’s natural for her, given her energy, enthusiasm, and drive for sniffing and chasing all the very interesting distractions we encounter.

While this has caused many a literal tug-o’-war, it struck me this week that change has happened in our walks. There isn’t as much pulling as there once was. Zuzu still wants to race instead of saunter, but I can’t expect her to completely abandon her natural tendencies. As much as I would like that for myself, it’s wouldn’t be fair to her.

But one thing has drastically improved: her reaction to moving vehicles. When we first started walking, she wanted to chase cars. The bigger the vehicle, the more aggressive she was. Barking, lunging, nearly pulling me down with her. But we’ve worked on a skill recommended to us by a trainer, where over time, when a car comes, Zuzu sits and waits for a treat.

In the beginning, it was an effort to get her to stop, much less sit. Now, at the very earliest sound of an upcoming car, she starts to move off the shoulder, onto the grass, sits patiently and awaits her treat. I hold off with the treat until the car is going by us, and she eagerly (but patiently) awaits that moment, focused on the treat, NOT the car. She gets a little animated with trucks but doesn’t try to chase them anymore. That’s HUGE!

Noticing the Small Things

The shift in her behavior has been gradual. It’s hard to gauge the monumental difference over the last two years because the changes have come so slowly. But Zuzu has been very successful in making significant headway.

The same thing happens with human behavior. Whether evaluating our own changes, or those of our colleagues, it’s often difficult to see the difference when we are watching the evolution over time. It doesn’t seem as “good” because we tend not to gauge how far we’ve come from our initial start. Instead, we stay focused on shorter-term changes.

It’s also easy to lose patience with ourselves, and of course, others, when we don’t see big changes quickly. Our expectations can be unrealistic; therefore, it feels like we fail. But what if we allow ourselves some grace in moving towards our longer-term, more sustainable improvements?

Shifting Our Approach

At PeopleSense, we recognize this challenge. So we are working with clients to support a model of ‘learn and return’ as opposed to ‘one and done.’ Our program engagements are designed to be shorter in length (typically 90 minutes but experimenting with 30- and 60- minute sessions) but more frequently spaced, with practice assignments in between.

This approach is based on what we know about how people learn best—through repetition, consistency, and awareness. This model also gives participants the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned between sessions and return with personal experiences and questions to share.

The feedback we’ve received is that instead of leaving a day-long workshop overwhelmed with new information, learners instead feel empowered to take action more immediately, changing behavior, outcomes, and ultimately culture.

When Changes Add Up

Just like my daily walks with Zuzu, change happens over time. Her behavior around moving vehicles never would have evolved if we only went for a trek once a month. Or if we avoided places with cars altogether because it just seemed like a hassle. It’s making the effort regularly, together, that has changed the habit and ultimately, our relationship.  That’s a realization I’m newly proud of.

So in 2023, I encourage you to practice, refine, practice, refine – and then celebrate (don’t forget this important piece)! If you could use some support to set you on the right trajectory (like our wonderful trainer did for me and Zuzu), let’s make time to talk.

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