From the moment I first meet my new puppy, I cradle them on their back and rub their belly. It is my favorite way to pet my dogs and it fosters great trust for them to be so vulnerable. The pup usually outgrows the practice, but with my current dog, she has climbed into my lap almost every day. As a result, I have a 58# belly that I can rub with ease.

There is no way that I could have this dog in my lap if today was the first time that I tried to do it. She needed to learn that it was a desirable thing to do and I needed to build up the endurance to lift her one pound at a time. I didn’t notice the difference between 57 and 58 pounds and couldn’t lift that much weight now if I hadn’t been lifting her all along. But by doing it every day, it has become so natural that I didn’t even think about it until my vet asked if she could take this picture.

While I doubt that many of you set out to become belly-rubbing pet owners, the principle rings true for whatever practices you are trying to instill in your personal life or organization. Understanding your end goal helps you build capacity and the stamina to reach it. You start small – with a seemingly insignificant behavior – and repeat it daily over the long term. One more contact/day leads to a robust network; 10 squats every day and soon you’re able to do 20, etc. Soon it becomes part of your fabric and you forget that you are gaining ground, even though you are.

Unfortunately, the process works on negative behaviors too – spending an extra $3/day adds up to over $1000 frivoled away each year; an extra snack at the vending machine each afternoon adds ounce by ounce to your overall heft – so it is essential to be conscious of the impact your minor actions are having.

Whether towards good or bad, repetition reigns. Be very intentional about whatever you do over and over again.

January 2018
December 2018

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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