Dan DiGangi - Software Engineering Manager, Tech Instructor/Mentor
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My Puppy is Helping Me Break My Worst Habit


With great pugs comes great responsibility.

Whether you have a dog or not, it would be silly to say it is easy to own one. The requirements are lesser than non-furry, human children but he still owns time throughout my day. Training becomes a necessity for your sanity and those around you. It requires time, consistency, and a LOT of patience. The keyword there, for me, is consistency.

Consistency has long been one of my greatest weaknesses. We rarely are willing to admit our faults but I find it the best way to identify and improve myself at a personal level. I wrote about this in my first post Blogging, Prioritization, and Accountability also. If you happen to be looking to hire or ask me to help you launch a company, don't run for the hills just yet. My inconsistencies lie in the patterns I follow to complete tasks and how I correct the inconsistency.

The best example I can use is around my health. I've never ended up at a point of being unhealthy but I have fluctuated significantly over the years. After working hard to achieve a defined level of success, I revert to a diet constituting 99.9% junk food. In order to appease what I have done, that new year resolution type mentality kicks in and I go into extreme dieting. This is not only hard on my body but the strain can be overwhelming mentally.

Here are some other examples:

  • I started a new blog, wrote 1 to 2 posts, and never logged in again until the next blog was started.
  • I didn't feel like doing laundry so it ended up in the hamper until I was months behind.
  • I was behind on my work due to procrastination and have to jam in a 24 hour 'workathon' prior to the deadline.

The list goes on and on. The problem lies in two areas. The first being the actions taken along the way to create the consequences described above. The second being the reconciliation of the consequence. From one extreme to the other, you could say I act almost bipolar.

Where does Ralphie fit into this?

Over the last year with him, I've noticed a staggering change in the consistency of my actions. I attribute this directly to his training.

In order to be successful with a puppy, you must be consistent. They eat and go outside at certain times (generally). They expect similar reactions to commands in order to understand how to keep getting those treats they love so much.

Your consistency is what helps them build their own.

The habit I am building revolves around the idea of performing digestible actions throughout the journey to the end. I've worked hard to correct this on my own but it is clear that my brain has begun to kick the habit thanks to him. Without much thought, I innately perform along the way in smaller doses. The reconciliation phase never takes place thus lowering mental duress (which is also known as cognitive dissonance.)

Ralph's training has also been successful. He was (mostly) housebroken at only a few months old. If you ask for paw or want him to dance, he will gladly oblige. His understanding of when it is time to eat or go outside is almost robotic.

I'm actively working to push my brain to perform this by habit while refraining from falling into the old ways. It is a tough battle but like Ralph's training, we have a little farther to go. 'I don't have a dog.'

Understood. Ralph was a wildcard and I didn't expect his impact. I'm not advising you should get a dog or it is necessary. But, if consistency is a problem you face in any light, this pattern can work for you too. My pup just happened to be a valuable tool in getting there.

With regards to my examples above, this pattern means dieting year around but giving myself the freedom to have some Sour Path Kids once in awhile. It means writing more throughout the week and having realistic expectations of what can be done. It means I need to be washing clothes every week, not everything all at once when my closet is empty.

Below, you find a step of steps that I have begun to follow:

  • Determine an intended or expected outcome
  • Create action steps required to achieve said outcome
  • Re-examine steps; look for actions within to be broken into more digestible chunks
  • Perform said actions and adjust as needed

If you are familiar with agile methodologies, this should be ringing a bell. It is important to remember that things change along the way and you need the ability to flex with them. Step 4's focus on adjustment is key. Remember, this is about improving the journey to the end. Forgive yourself for mistakes; make changes if things are not working.

I am inclined to brag about having progressed so positively this past year. After plaguing myself with this habit for so many years, the personal gains are greatly welcomed. In retrospect, I've been able to lower my stress, further my productivity, and increase learning.

I do not expect nor want you to be consistent in everything to you do but the ability to do that when the time comes is truly invaluable.

- DD