Positive Reinforcement, for You

Bridges connect behaviors to cues in training 

Positive feedback, positive thinking, positive attitudes; its all powerful stuff.  I’ve been privy to this secret for awhile.  Many (many!) zoo and aquarium career staffers have read the classic Dont Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor (she who founded the idea of clicker training).  Its a bible for animal training and introduces the same powerful concept – if you want to have a chance at shaping behavior in animals, you have to be positive. 

It works for people too.  Heck, it even works on people.  I won’t deny that part of classroom management for informal education – at least for me – involves heavy doses of positive feedback infiltrated consistently by the words: excellent, awesome, spectacular, amazing, and incredible.  I don’t just give feedback, I go a little overboard.  Its the same enthusiastic approach that trainers use with animals.  And I have to confess, it works incredibly well on children during field trips. 

It can also work on wives, husbands, boyfriends, best friends, and even bitter enemies.  In fact, when used wisely, it has a 92% rate of return on a dinner invitation.  No, wait.. that’s the bend and snap from Legally Blonde.   At any rate, this little trick works.  If you’re subtle about it no one will be any wiser that you’re using concepts developed for teaching guard dogs on them and will simply find you “charming”. 

Real Simple magazine recently did an article that skims the surface of positive reinforcement and turns it inwards on ourselves.  Want to feel better about your situation?  Celebrate your successes.  Find the good in everyday life.  Reward people for doing the things that make your life brighter and happier.  Its that simple.

We live in a world where the news outlets constantly trumpet the latest scandal, rape, abduction, flood, and fire.   We’re surrounded by negativity and dread about impending doom (and the doom on the horizon just changes shape, it never really dissipates).  Instead of giving in to the sense of paranoia about it all, I think we should celebrate what we can. 

For me, that means celebrating the small victories I make each day in the battle against apathy and ignorance surrounding wildlife, endangered species, and having a green lifestyle.  I’m not perfect, certainly.  But instead of bemoaning the fact that I can’t reach everyone, I’ll endeavor to celebrate touching peoples lives in any way.  Instead of wistfully wishing I could have a zero-impact lifestyle, I’ll celebrate the fact that I can make choices that do something positive and powerful for our environment. 

Ultimately, seeing myself and treating myself with the same positive vibes I send outward to others just may help me reshape my own behavior and motivate me to continue to do whatever I can to change the world.  Like Smoochy said: “You can’t change the world, but you can make a dent.”  If I can keep a positive focus I just be able to make a bigger dent than I previously thought possible. 


One Comment to “Positive Reinforcement, for You”

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