Someone at Urban Pooch asked Pamela the instructor, “What is normal to expect of a dog’s behavior outside of the classroom?” Bama’s school goes by levels so dogs start at Level 1 (where they learn sit, down, their name, for example), Level 2 (stay, come, heel... this is where we are), all the way to Level 5 and dogs graduate level by level once they've passed some tests until the owner is happy with how well-behaved their dog is. The thing is, I can feel TOTALLY happy with Bama's behavior in school or at home but once she's outside, it's like I don't exist and neither does any of what she's learned at school!
WHY can a dog can who can FINALLY “stay” and “heel” really well in school (YAY, BAMA!) not understand what a basic “sit” means at a stop sign (BOO, BAMA!)?
Because of the environment, that’s why.
The classroom and home are comfortable environments where our dogs are at ease and get into a certain routine. But, explained Pamela, dogs might very well behave at least one level — if not two! — below their current school level when they are outside of their familiar spots, at least for a little while. Newer environments or situations can leave dogs feeling stressed or excited so their ability and willingness to hear you say, “SIT!” is just not there.
We humans may be more complicated beings than our doggie counterparts but how often do we ask ourselves what our habits should look like outside of our "normal"? We think we should be on our “best” behavior no matter where we are: Home, work, business trips, vacation... But, like dogs, our behavior might change because we're in a stressful situation; or we're excited about something; or we're in a different country that speaks a language we don't know; or we're in a season that brings with it a totally different schedule (or lack of one) than the rest of the year. Like summer.
For example: We may be skilled at staying away from ice cream at home but when we’re in Rome, we can’t say no to gelato! Or, we pat ourselves on the back when we stick to our gym schedules whenever life is “normal” but we berate ourselves when we don't fit in a workout before 8AM meetings start at the Shanghai office when we might be jet-lagged!
I decided to bring this up this week because summer vacations are upon many of us, work trips aren't slowing down and next week is the 4th of July which could mean BBQ'd everything, beer and wine and all types of jello molds depending where you are...
I am a big believer that each season brings with it opportunities to swap out certain habits for others. So for the next few weeks, we’ll examine what those summer habits and skills might look like because you deserve to put yourself in a winning position when it comes to feeling your best while thoroughly enjoying every moment in the sun.
Choosing your best option, no matter where you are
There are two big times of the year where we find ourselves in situations where we feel like we have no “healthy” options: the summer (on vacations, at cookouts, etc) and from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. So we plod along, looking like Charlie Brown after Lucy takes the football away and think, “Well, I have no good choices here at this barbecue/holiday party/all-inclusive resort so I might as well just have it all.” We eat a bunch of food, drink a bunch of drinks and can’t even enjoy a second of it because we feel annoyed/guilty/sad. So we consume even more to numb ourselves.
Practicing actively choosing one option over another — even when our options are 5-cheese pizza vs pepperoni pizza — puts the power of choice back in our hands. Once we take ownership of our choices and decisions, the chances of us overindulging go down while the chances of us having fun and living a full life go up!
HOW CAN YOU PERSONALIZE THIS SKILL?
You likely won’t have to do this at every meal but see if there is one part of your day this could help you out. This habit can look like this:
- I will make the best choice for me each time I go out to lunch and/or dinner this week;
- I will look at the menu at the restaurant ahead of time to make my decision before I get there;
- I will make the best choice for me at the lunch cafeteria every day this week;
- I will make the best choice for me each time it’s time to order something to drink at happy hour.
- I will make the best choice for me for each afternoon snack this week.
What do I mean by "best choice for me", exactly:
By "best" I might mean: healthiest, best-tasting, least-costly, on one of Anthony Bourdain's best of lists (happy belated birthday, AB), best-looking... the list goes on. The takeaway is that it is an active choice made by you.
But what if I don’t want to pick between one option and another?
Not choosing between two options IS a choice so own it! If you decide you’d like to eat both options, you can always choose to alter the portion size. Just be in the moment and enjoy it.
What if none of the items are healthy?
Sometimes there won’t be a single veggie is sight. Sometimes there may not even be a non-fried option in sight. And you know what? That’s OK. You can still make an active decision. For example, let’s take the pizza example above. You’ve got your choice of cheese or pepperoni. You could choose the pepperoni slice because you know it’ll taste better. Own it! You could choose the 5-cheese because it just looks better. Own it! Own the decision and you’ll be more satisfied and will very likely eat less.
Whew. I feel like I just threw a lot out there. I also feel like this "choosing what's best for you" skill isn't talked about a whole lot so: If you have any questions/concerns/feedback/anything, please post a comment below or email me! Let's chat!