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Shaping Success

I wrote about shaping as a learning technique a couple of days ago. Since that post, I have been trying to apply the technique to myself. The basic principle is that when you do something desirable, you get rewarded. You need to do the activity first, and only then can you get the reward. For example, if I sit down and work on my dissertation for two hours in the morning, I can then take a nice (guilt free) break and take the dogs for a hike as a reward.

This sounds very simple, but in fact is extremely reinforcing. When I actually get up early and work for a couple of hours, the dog walk is so, so, so much more enjoyable than it would be otherwise that it actually makes me want to go back to work. And when I get into this pattern regularly (I can reward myself with things other than hikes with the dogs: lunch with a friend, reading a novel, shopping, yoga, writing in my blogs, and so on), I find myself wanting to get up and WORK. Pretty soon it becomes an entrenched pattern.

I have been working pretty well for the last few days, although this has largely been because I have had no other choice. I have been grading papers and otherwise working to deadline and have had very little time to do anything but. As a result, I have not been rewarding myself for all this hard work. But I am going to start doing that tomorrow. The deadlines are easing and I need other motivation to keep going.

Another part of shaping is that it is supposed to be about POSITIVE experiences. This is what I love so much about working with my agility instructor. She is a very positive person, does positive only training methods, and makes sure we are all having FUN. As a result, our classes are always something to look forward to.

Trying to make writing a dissertation fun is a whole other ball game. But that is what I am trying to do these days. First, I am trying my best to maintain a positive attitude: I WILL BE SUCCESSFUL. This is my new mantra. Second, I am trying to build in positive experiences, beyond my rewards for successful (work) behaviour. So last week I decided to ask friends to help me out. After all, what is more enjoyable than spending time with good friends over food or beer? So on Friday I had two such meetings (I actually stuck to tea so that I could remember what we talked about) and between both sessions, hashed out an entirely new approach to my proposal. I am now trying to polish this up for presentation to my supervisor on Wednesday. I will spend all tomorrow doing so, peppered with little rewards. And if I get it done in time, I will go to see a movie with friends in the evening (big reward!).

So Wednesday is a big day; it is imperative that this new idea be accepted as I am to present it in much more developed form to the new member of my committee less than a week later. But I am not worried. I am working hard, staying positive, and… I WILL BE SUCCESSFUL.

Wish me luck!


One Response

  1. I have no doubt you will be!

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