My husband doesn’t always like to take our golden retriever running with him, because even though Dug can run like the wind (Bullseye), he tends to get a little stubborn when running on a leash. We call him The Anchor.
Still, because my husband does sometimes take Dug running, Dug has come to assume that all runners are my husband. This can be annoying when I’m taking him for a walk, and every time he sees a runner he wants to stop to wait (or run to catch up). The worst is when a slow runner is approaching from well behind us, and Dug puts on the full 4-paw braking system and refuses to budge.
I know what’s going through his pea-sized dog brain: “My man! My man! I have to wait for my man!” Never mind if the runner in question is a woman, is pushing a baby stroller, or already has a dog (three things that should eliminate the possibility that the runner is “his man”). Unless the wind is blowing just right and Dug smells that it’s the wrong person, he ever optimistic.
On Saturday, all the smart walkers and runners were up at 6 a.m. to beat the heat. You would think that after the 20th runner passed us, and was revealed to NOT be his man, that Dug’s tiny canine mind would start to put two and two together. Alas, Jeff timed his run to leave the house 20 minutes after us, catching up along the way. Talk about positive reinforcement! (Sigh.)
I started thinking about how this is the opposite of how humans think. One positive experience (“It’s my man!”) can outweigh 20 negative experiences (“Whoops…not my man!”). With humans, who arguably have more than two brain cells to rub together, one negative experience can overshadow several positive experiences.
Research shows that in healthy interpersonal communication, positive interactions outweigh negative interactions by at least 5:1. That’s because negative interactions carry more weight (sad but true). What’s true for interpersonal communication appears to be true for intrapersonal communication: i.e., the words we say to ourselves.
We are often our own worst critics, but some of us are harsher than others. When you constantly tell yourself that you aren’t good enough or won’t succeed at what you are trying to do (be more physically active, eat better, go to bed earlier, avoid the office candy dish), then the successes you do go virtually without credit. You see them as the exception to the rule, the rule being that you’re a failure.
And to that, I say, rejoice in your successes, and see them as a promise of future success. And…