A Yardstick with a Metal Edge
Let me share another true story with you. I went to a public high school that was located in an urban area in the city’s downtown district. The high school campus included 2 very old buildings, one building built in 1890 and the other built in the 1920’s. Neither included any modern athletic facilities.
I was on the track team and since the high school did not have a field house with an indoor track or an outdoor track that was close to the school. Therefore, we ran our track workouts by circling the city blocks around the high school.
On the block adjacent to the high school was a Catholic Church that was over 100 years old and included a grade school. At that time, all the classes at the grade school were taught by nuns.
The property of the grade school was surrounded by the fence enclosing a yard with grass. As we ran our track workouts around the city blocks we would use the fence around the grade school as a steeple chase hurdle and jump over it every time we circled that block.
Jumping over the fence on a daily basis really annoyed the Mother Superior of the nuns who was also the principal of the grade school. She warned us numerous times not to jump the fence and even called the principal of our high school to complain.
Of course we did not listen to the Mother Superior or our high school principal to stop jumping over the fence during track practice.
One spring day when it was raining we began circling the block and jumping over the fence at the grade school during our track work out. On our second pass around the block, Mother Superior was standing there in her full nun uniform, her habit, with a pair of running shoes on, and carrying a yard stick with a metal edge.
It was a common practice to those days for the nuns to routinely discipline their students with rulers and yardsticks in the grade school.
As we came around the corner to jump over the fence, Mother Superior started chasing us with the yardstick with the metal edge. Since it was raining that spring day, the grass around the fence was slippery.
All of my fellow runners and myself successfully jumped over the fence and outran Mother Superior, excpet for one of runners named Sammy (not his real name).
Sammy slipped and fall on the wet grass and immediately the Mother Superior pounced upon Sammy and began to pummel him with the yardstick with the metal edge.
Sammy ended up with many large welts on his body as he was being pummeled by the Mother Superior before he was able to regain his footing and then outrun Mother Superior as she chased him down the block, still wildly swinging her yardstick with the metal edge at him.
If you want to see a funny visual depiction what this may have looked like that day, watch the beginning of the Blue’s Brother Movie from 1980 where Jake and Elwood go back to visit the Mother Superior of the orphanage they grew up in and get wacked by a yardstick in her office.
Now, I realize this sounds crazy and understand this type of behavior by the Mother Superior would not be allowed in today’s world, even by a nun. Her behavior could have resulted in the Mother Superior being arrested for assault, battery and possibly some other crimes. However, in those days, this type of behavior was tolerated.
For the next week or so, when it was time for track practice, Mother Superior stood outside the grade school with her yardstick with the metal edge. Her physical presence with the yardstick with the metal edge was enough to prevent us from jumping over the fence during our daily runs.
That is, the physical presence of Mother Superior with the yard stick with the metal edge directly caused us to modify our behavior and not jump over the fence during track practice.
Behavior modification is defined as “a process of changing patterns of human behavior over a period of time using motivational techniques.”
Behavior modification techniques typically include positive punishment, negative punishment, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement.
The Mother Superior of the grade school with her yardstick with the metal edge was a deterrent to us jumping over the fence and became something that was a behavior modifying technique including negative punishment (i.e., the possibility of being hit by the yard stick with the metal edge) and negative reinforcement (i.e., avoid making the choice of jumping over the fence because of the negative punishment, the yard stick with the metal edge associated with that choice).
If there is some undesired behavior pattern in your own life you need to change, do it with positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement includes introducing a desirable response to encourage a new behavior pattern.
In this case, the desirable response is ICE.
How do you ICE out your old undesirable behavior patterns?
Get additional insights on creating positive reinforcement techniques using the ICE technique from the Out There on the Edge of Everything® Podcast.
ICE out your old, undesirable behavior patterns with an Immediate, Consistent and Effective response.
- Immediate. Immediately look for, be aware of, and acknowledge the existence of behavior related triggers as they are occurring that generate the old undesirable behavior patterns you are trying to eliminate from your life. A behavior related trigger is defined as “a thought about a person, situation or event, based on past experiences or projections into the future, that leads to an inappropriate response to that person, situation or event.” Then step back, pause and look at the behavior related triggers that are occurring in your life from a new higher vantage point, from that of a neutral observer. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.“ This new higher vantage point as a neutral observer gives you a new, higher perspective that is above the level at which you are experiencing your behavior related triggers. A neutral observer views a person, situation or event, as it is, in the present moment, without generating any emotions or judgments and without projection into the past or future.
- Consistent. Consistently make your responses to your behavior related triggers proactive responses from the view point of a neutral observer. When you make a proactive response for the view point of a neutral observer, you pause and observe yourself from an empowered state. Being empowered allows you to be in control, to be accountable and responsible and to focus your response by taking achievable steps towards an end goal of changing your feelings, emotions and actions to a new behavior pattern that you now desire, moving forward. Avoid simply reacting to your behavior related triggers. When you simply react to your behavior related triggers, you disrupt your normal decision-making process and this leaves you in a dis-empowered, raw, reactionary emotional state, which generate the old undesirable behavior patterns you are trying to eliminate from your life in a negative feedback loop.
- Effective. Consistent, proactive responses from the view point of a neutral observer are effective to produce the results you desire of creating new behavior patterns and such responses will reinforce the new behavior patterns in your life. There are several ways new behavior patterns are reinforced in your life. Personal reinforcers occur when you feel good about avoiding an old behavior pattern and creating a new behavior pattern. For example, you just smile when your significant other says “you always forget to take out the garbage” and you avoid an argument that typically occurs when you hear the trigger word “always.” Social reinforcers occur when your friends, family, significant other, etc. notice your new behavior pattern and express positive approval of it. For example, your boss may say, “I appreciate the patience you showed with that client this time, he always has been a difficult person to deal with.” Reward reinforcers occur when you reward yourself for avoiding an old behavior pattern and for creating a new behavior pattern. For example, when you react to a behavior related trigger avoid for an old behavior pattern and create a new behavior pattern, you reward yourself by getting your nails done, getting a massage, taking a bubble path, buying a new item of clothing, a new pair of shoes, ordering a special desert when you go out to eat, buying tickets to a sporting event, etc. Be careful not to overdue the reward reinforcements, because if you do you may actually create an undesirable negative behavior pattern in your life. If you need a visual for not creaing a new undesirable negative behavior pattern in your life, think “yardstick with a metal edge.”
Putting your old undesirable behavior patterns on ICE allows you to create a positive impact into your life.
Out There on the Edge of Everything® …
Stephen Lesavich, PhD
Copyright © 2022, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD. All rights reserved.
Certified solution-focused life coach and experienced business coach.