How we get programmed by simple actions


Ever give your dog or cat a treat? Do it once and they will demand it forever! So in the end, who is training who? I have a friend who taught his cat Sherman to sit up and give the paw before providing milk as a treat. Before too long Sherman was prancing into the kitchen, sitting himself down and offering the paw as if to say, “ok, big guy, where’s the milk?” If my friend ignored him, Sherman would resort to pawing the dishwasher and meowing loudly until he got what he wanted – the milk! It’s pretty funny, but that’s how it went.

Sherman with the paw for milk

Sherman with the paw for milk

Now I have a similar story relating to my own cat Skylar who, after getting crunches on top of his soft food only once as an incentive to eat would then refuse to eat without the added bonus. The cat could be starving, but would just sit and look at me like, “Are you kidding? You want me to eat that?” of course, not wanting him to go too long without food I’d give him what he wanted. Now the crunches are a stable and no longer a treat.

But isn’t this how life is? If we’re given a bonus at work too often, we come to expect it. Or, more likely, certain behaviors from friends and family say a significant other takes us out regularly or perhaps a child gets good grades in school. So much for that new behavior being special, since if rewarded too often, it’s expected and no longer appreciated. Thus we move into the taken for granted mode.

It’s easy to fall into this trap. Take a look around your life and see where you’ve been programmed or perhaps where you’ve programmed those around you. Do your kids expect multiple vacations, gifts and treats per year because you did it once and now they think it’s normal and so expected? Think about whether you should re-program certain areas of your life for the better to bring things back into proper balance. Is all that behavior, whatever “that is” really necessary?

Only then can we have true gratitude and appreciation for what’s truly special in our lives. That’s how it’s supposed to be! Let me know how it goes..

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