“Good girl to sit!” “Good girl to tinkle outside!” “Good girl to come!” “What a good girl you are! Yes you are!” That’s me talking or, rather cooing, clucking and sometimes shrieking to our Golden Retriever, Willa. It all started when she was a puppy. She’s our third “Golden” and although both her predecessors were fabulous, greathearted and totally beloved, neither was known for being particularly uh, well-behaved. And neither of them ever stopped jumping up on people to lick their faces, never stopped grabbing hors d’oeuvres out of guests’ hands, never stopped pulling my arm out of it’s socket when they were on the leash. (“Hey, if you don’t want an exuberant dog, don’t get a Golden,” a dear friend and wonderful vet, said...)
“But this time it will be different,” I declared when we first brought the seven-week-old dumpling Willa home from the breeder. I’d gotten a book about how to train a Golden Retriever puppy and it taught that positive reinforcement was the key and that you had to keep catching her doing something right - not something wrong - and praise her for it. You were supposed to start each sentence with, “Good girl” for whatever good thing she did and make a big fuss over her. Okay, we’ve been following that advice for seven years. And she is a very good girl. Yes, she is! Except when she isn’t. Sometimes she jumps up on people to lick their faces and yes, sometimes she snatches an hors d’oeuvre off a table (even when somebody’s looking) and yes, she recently ate an entire pineapple upside down cake that was cooling on the kitchen counter. “How could you have done such a great job raising your daughters and have blown it with your dogs?” an old friend asked me. Actually, to borrow from "Mr. Rogers," a hero of mine, we like her just the way she is (most of the time...)
And guess what? "The 'Good girl!' Method of Motivation" has become part of the bloodstream of our family. We’re always saying something like, “Good girl to empty the dishwasher!” or “Good boy to make cheese grits!” or “What a good girl to bring me another bag of tea lights!” Kate, our older daughter, who always brings them, knows that I have a crazy candle fetish and she regularly feeds my habit..) We’ve actually “Good Girl'd!” - or “Good Boy’d!” ourselves (with humor) through situations that could otherwise have been exhausting, really annoying.... or maybe even a little debilitating.
And hey, the fact is that most of us live - and work - in an under-staffed, over-worked, up-tight, down-in-the-mouth environment where “The ‘Good Girl’ Method of Motivation” - the positive energy, optimism, humor and spirit that drives innovation and reinvention are in pretty short supply. We’re so busy trying to get everything done, to uncover what’s not working rather than what is working, to root out the mistake or the shortfall rather than the wins, that we forget to acknowledge ourselves or anyone else for doing something, well, good. But that’s okay. We can fix it. Because the best (and easiest) way to galvanize any group of people - work teams, sports teams, home teams - is to remind them of how good they are, of their wins, maybe against all flags, of their unique talents that can turn the tide, of the fact that they are unquestionably the right people at the right place at the right time to make all the difference, regardless of the odds. But there’s no time to waste. We’ve got to start now. And it’s got to be heart-felt. And if we do it right - and we can - the positive energy will become contagious. And when that happens and people start looking for reasons to tell each other how good, how hot, how appreciated they are - and do it...we can all work miracles together...tough times or not. And even have fun in the process.
Okay, so this past Thursday night (actually Friday at 12:50 AM) right after I arrived back in NYC at the end of a three-city, four-airplane ride, (2 were over 5 hours) speaking tour in Canada for one of my favorite clients, I shot a text to Jim that said, “Just landed!” And he shot one right back: “Good girl to land!”
And I knew I was home...
Here’s a picture of Willa...”Good girl to wrap your toy around your face!"
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns ©2014 All Rights Reserved
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