This is Molly. I’ve written about how she reminds me to leave my desk and take walks so I’ll be healthier, and how she taught me about how to ask for help so that I get what I want. She’s also taught me a lot about how expectations color what you get from the people and livestock around me. Like this:
Most people think that cats are not trainable. They expect cats to do whatever the cat wants, which is exactly what happens. But not Molly. She understands the word “no,” she doesn’t get on the kitchen counters, and she comes when called – all because I expected those things.
The next step was to teach her to do some tricks. Here Molly shows how she catches treats out of the air, stands up on her hind legs, and spins right and left.
She can do this because, first, I adjusted my expectations of her. Then, I paid attention to what she likes and what’s important to her – treats and praise – so I could figure out ways to adjust her behavior. For awhile she got hit in the head by treats tossed to her. The first time she opened her mouth to catch one, I praised the heck out of her, even though she missed. That helped her get the idea about what I was trying to get her to do. Eventually she could do it easily (and rarely misses catching a treat). It was the same for each of the other tricks.
What does that have to do with you?
Our expectations of the people and animals we work with, or the stories we tell about them in our heads, can be limiting to them and to our own success as well.
I’m not saying, “Expect the best and you’ll get it.” If you’ll notice, in my example, I had to change my behavior to get Molly to meet my expectations. So there’s work involved for all of us. But it can help to take a moment to consider why you think what you think, and if it is serving you well. From there, you have choices that you didn’t have before.
It might mean that you give up thinking of weeds as something bad because you teach your cows to turn them into forage. It might mean that you figure out how to work with a cranky neighbor so that you can cooperate on a project that benefits you both. Or it might mean that you head down to the local Natural Resources Conservation Service or Conservation District office for a little financial or technical assistance.
Thinking differently and changing your expectations isn’t easy – but it can be very valuable. If you have ideas for how On Pasture can help you with this, do let me know!
Thanks for reading!