We have a Shetland Sheepdog who is beautiful, smart and growing slightly senile in her old age. (By which I mean she does things like comes in from being outside and stands and waits for a treat. Which is what she’s always done, but now she’s staring at a wall instead of looking up for me for the treat.)
And if you know anything about shelties, you know they’re ridiculously clever, can be trained to do anything and they bark. It’s how they herd sheep. Apparently though there are some oddly quiet shelties who can just mind control a sheep into doing sheep things. That’s not how Callie does things. Callie loves to bark. It’s her great joy — and she’s really good at it.
In all of her almost 14 years on the planet, we’ve never been able to get Callie to not bark. But what we can do is get her to stop barking and do something else. It took a few tries, but now when the grocery delivery arrives, Callie barks at the truck and then puts herself into her crate and stops barking.
She trained herself to do something else.
A few months ago I read a book — OK, part of a book — about changing habits. And one of the points the author made was that people are most successful in changing habits when they switch a habit with another habit. Find something else to do instead of smoking when you drink your coffee in the morning. Or if you always have a vending machine run at 3pm when you’re tired and crabby… then switch it with a walk around the building.
One of the habits I’m trying to adjust this year is snacking before bed. I have no idea why I started doing it, but it sure hasn’t done me any favors.
I’m replacing that sad little habit with tea. A nighttime tea in the fanciest cups we have. With little special serving dishes and this oddly special quiet time spent waiting for the kettle to whistle. The whole process has a wonderful rhythm to it that I’m really enjoying.
I’ve given myself a little bit of mind space that I never noticed before because I was too busy doing what I’ve always done.
Turns out? I take my tea with a little milk.