March 28, 2018

Welcome Denver Too!

Denver Too’s joined the gang! I picked up a new vizsla on Saturday out of a plan built in the fall to get a dog. I made an agreement with myself in December to follow to some committed daily behaviors in order to determine whether or not I could commit to the care and patience required to maintain a healthy relationship with another being. I’m happy to say Denver’s joined and integrated easily into the family and we’ve experienced far more positive encounters than negative.

But, mainly I wanted to reflect on the daily activities that I committed to and how that came about. I went about goal setting in December and wrote out a variety of supposed goals that I want to achieve. I write supposed in hopes that I appreciate the changing experience of goal setting; goals morph and change and without allowing goals to be adaptive they can become tools to punish ourselves.

Any goal is only as good as the commitment to what it takes to achieve it. There are two strong methods that I found helpful when following through with the necessary steps to experience some success over time with goal setting. The first was breaking the goals down to daily activities or behaviors that would move me in the direction of the end-result and the second was investing time in implementation intention to further entrench my commitment to the behaviors requisite to achieve success.

Some of the long-term goals would not be helped by daily activities. Those related to both financial freedom and financial stability only required a commitment to invest, save, or payoff current sums and the related daily behavior necessary was budgeting. On the other hand, some of the daily goals needed to shift relative to actual value of execution. For example, the daily writing commitment started with a minimum 30 minutes dedicated to writing. Quickly I realized the amount of justification that can be used to dodge the issue of writing or justify aspects of writing that were not words being put down on paper. So, it became a word count.

The easier goals I found were simply built out of executable activities. Reading for 30 minutes a day to ensure at least finishing two books a month is an easy commitment to make and the act of reading is quick and enjoyable. The rare moments of displeasure are the fault of the author and the content, all forgiven when it comes to a redeeming sentence. Exercise activity is easier than reading. All it takes is the arrival at a location and a commitment to the implementation intention. A quick google can explain this, but it is the creation of if-then contingencies that require behavioral commitments to increase the cohesion with goals. A goal to be more active might come with the intention, if I see a set of stairs then I will use them.

I measured these behaviors with a simple strategy. I built an excel sheet with a master tab with columns of the week days and lines of the behavior. The behaviors successfully completed would be colored green and those undone would be colored red. The surprising value of tracking came in the mental silence and acceptance of marking something red. I felt great when I did something and at the end of the week I enjoyed seeing what I had done. On the daily level, I felt great when I could mark something undone and move on with my life instead of berating myself continuously for the lack of completion.

Part of these daily behaviors also included keeping a journal to track my attitude on the daily level and then spend thirty minutes a week reflecting upon my mental state. I found this part of the more amusing process as it reminded me of the reflection from Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being when Karenin (a dog) no longer finds himself able to receive the daily offering from the baker as they walk through the town and the narrator reflects that the great tragedy of human life is we are born into seeing life as a linear progression of succession when really it is a series of succeeding circles; life is a continual cycle that plays out daily.

I committed to acquiring Denver in the fall to deal with the impending winter. I felt that a dog would be a great addition to my routines. I could be a great pet owner and mold a companion who would mold me. The first Denver I found died from parvo in November. It’s a disappointing moment and any number of reactions are appropriate. But, Denver Too is here and he’s very happy, healthy, and asleep on his bed currently. I’ve been giving a lot of red boxes on the dailies since his arrival, which I don’t mind; the importance of daily behaviors will bring themselves back and I’m still doing the easy things (exercise and reading), but I’m happy to throw some words back there and say welcome Denver.

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