This morning as I took my two dogs for a walk on a new route, there was just as much struggle as there was enjoyment. They pulled on the lead in spite of my best efforts to reinforce the loose lead walking that we learned and practiced in our 12 months of dog training. My best efforts to walk rather than be pulled were an epic fail.
When we approached another dog, Dixie, the fearful one was ready to lunge at the oncoming dog in self defence. Panda the oversized, friendly one was ready to get into some serious play, oblivious to the fact that his size and strength often overpower other dogs. The strength of both of them pulling on the lead almost dragged me along with them as they tried to get closer to the dog ahead.
As we walked back to the car, I thought about how I wished I had dogs that walked without pulling on the lead, would ‘stay’ when I gave them the command (regardless of the distraction whether it be dogs, cars or people), and would immediately come when called.
And then it hit me.
I knew exactly what I needed to do to train them to do all those things. I saw proof of it in dog training by their progress and by the accomplished behaviour of the trainer’s dog. So my walk was not frustrating because of the dogs, but because of my not investing the time in reinforcing the concepts I learned (and they learned) at training. It would require time to reinforce, possibly re-teach some of the commands and practice them in distracting circumstances. I knew the steps I needed to take, the tools I needed and how to apply them. And yet, with all that knowledge, I ended up with a dog walk that was more struggle than pleasure because I kept the knowledge in my head rather than invest in applying it.
How often do we do this in life? We know what we need to do to get fit. Yet for many of us, our level of fitness is nowhere near our knowledge of it. We know what good management and leadership is, and even espouse it to colleagues, yet at times our conversations with direct reports do not resemble our espoused principles at all. We know what we need for maximum health and energy-sleep, healthy food etc. and yet at times unhealthy lifestyle choices are more the norm than the occasional exception.
And what happens when we keep things at the knowing level and never take them to the doing level? We make things harder on ourselves and at times our reputation!