How can establishing a new habit of 10 minutes a day change the way you look at yourself and change the course of your life? The story of the 2 dogs acting as coaches.
Like most, I have gone through difficult times more than once. All my colleagues know this; and it is also through these repeated trials that we have become experts in our own problems.
How can we really understand the difficulties of the people who come before us if we have not ourselves gone through similar situations and found original solutions?
But there are also seemingly innocuous ordeals that can hold great lessons. And I want to approach professional coaching here from a practical angle of body engagement and emotional involvement, by talking about a personal experience that helped me take a step forward.
When an individual has tried all kinds of techniques to achieve a goal in his areas of life, it is important for him to say to himself “I must get help” to get out of the closed system within which he is struggling. Otherwise, more of the same thing gives the same thing or as Albert Einstein said: “Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
At this stage, the person will potentially enter the world of so-called support professions. There I identify 3 main categories: the medical category, the psychological with therapeutic aim which goes from the psychologist to the psychoanalyst, and then the coaching (and its hundreds of techniques) as a springboard to help achieve one’s objectives (for example).
In coaching, the notion of relatively short transformation time is important. It is counted in hours of support (spread over a few weeks to a few months by an equipped professional).
But most of the work is done between sessions. The persons must help themselves with the support of the external third party. How then can you find the energy to support yourself in this considerable effort?
One of the important roles of the coach is to assist the person to initiate new daily habits. I insist on the importance of the notion of daily. And it is from this angle that this article approaches coaching according to an authentic and – I hope – inspiring sports metaphor.
11 years ago, a fundamental movement triggered a whole cascade of positive effects to activate dormant resources in me that made me realize what I could bring as a coach.
But a major catalyst for this general movement has been the arrival of 2 puppies in my life.
Having never had a dog and even less two, I found myself quite at a loss past the moment of emotional bewilderment of the decision to adopt 2… (and to tell the truth it is rather those who adopted me!)
I have always dreamed of a regular practice of sport, or simply physical exercise to maintain health and muscle tone. My ideal is to practice every day. Nevertheless, I imagined a much too ambitious program in the gym from which I came out exhausted the few times I managed to go. It was “a lot / rarely” while I needed “a little / regularly”.
My two dogs are unusually ultra-tonic, because the result of a hybridization (discovered later…) between a Swedish breed (with the exotic name of “Spitz of the Visigoths”) and a Border Collie. An explosive cocktail of primitive dogs and heelers able to tow sleds, loving to hunt and keep herds of reindeer with the hyper-active character of the Border fast as the wind…
The challenge was to offer them sufficient release in an urban environment. Failing to provide them with snowy forests, I decided to run with them.
Considering my condition at the time – coming out of a period of traumatic workplace harassment and near-burnout – running every day seemed like a superhuman effort.
However, I decided to do it out of duty and love for these little beings who had utter confidence in me and fully depended on me.
So, loosely following the principles of rapid learning of any novelty (adapted from Josh Kaufman ) I have
- 1-Split the difficulty (to make the challenge acceptable)
- 2-Learned to self-evaluate (measure the effort in particular)
- 3-Worked on my various limits and my blockages (too cold, too wet, too hard, too dark…too breathless…) keeping my jogging gear close at hand to make getting started less difficult as possible at dawn.
- 4- Aimed to practice at least 20 minutes a day for 3 consecutive weeks (this is the number devoted to implanting a new habit according to many studies).
At the beginning, I said to myself: “Bernard, no fuss…you can find 10 minutes a day to go out and do a very short walk”…knowing that the objective was to reach 20 minutes one day (but I a bit tricky!). It seemed like an empire to me at first. But I managed to prime the system and my dogs looked so happy, I felt like I was already doing the best I could for them.
It started with my 10 mins, then some days a little more, but the contract with myself was to never go out running under 10 mins and to do it ABSOLUTELY every day, rain or shine, hail or snow, tired or bored out…
After a few weeks I was able to overcome the resistance and I started to “believe” a change was possible. As a secondary benefit, my health improved considerably during this trial time and my whole being was “thrilled” by this new opportunity to train.
These mere 10 minutes of a new habit, gained each day on my slump, allowed me to also regain precious self-confidence gradually. A totally free of charge, low tech technique to get better and make my dogs happy and balanced,
This seemingly minor experience at the scale of a lifetime seemed to me, with hindsight, like a luminous coaching provided by my dogs. I owe them a debt of gratitude and will never thank them enough.
Since then, I run every day (as long as my joints can bear it!), I sometimes get hindered, but I catch up immediately without much effort because I have tasted this habit and anchored it. I do not need anyone. I am in full possession of my faculties and this time of exercise offers me a wonderful moment of reflection and release of my creativity…or reverie.
For you, perhaps this experience will serve as an inspiration. Perhaps you will also find the right incentive to spend 10, then 20 then 40 minutes to deploy and install a sports routine that will rejuvenate you. This will allow you to set up a self-coaching dynamic that you can transpose or reuse elsewhere!
The important thing is for you to love yourself as much as I love my dogs and to be convinced that you are worth it. The resulting benefit of an apparently small change might exceed your expectations!
You have to believe and do it!
Fanny and Freddie, my Sweedish shepherds have been, alongside my trainers and teachers, my precious masters on my learning journey. Efficient and benevolent auxiliaries by my side, on the long path of self-knowledge acquisition of a coach wishing to offer the best help to his clients…
Next time I will tell you how an octopus coached a man to teach him how to care for his family and his son…