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Rita’s Dog Theory—Incongruence Between Mind and Action

I remember my cousin Kate telling me a story about a lady named Rita and her dog Henry. Now Rita’s dog, a lovely and large mixed pedigree had become diabetic and had visited the vets frequently for tests and medication because it didn’t appear that Henry’s condition was under control.   Kate recalled one time […]

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I remember my cousin Kate telling me a story about a lady named Rita and her dog Henry.

Now Rita’s dog, a lovely and large mixed pedigree had become diabetic and had visited the vets frequently for tests and medication because it didn’t appear that Henry’s condition was under control.  

Kate recalled one time she was with Rita and Henry in their rustic kitchen. They had just returned from another veterinarians appointment and Rita had put the kettle on to make a cup of tea.  

The conversation went something like this.  

“How did Henry get on at the vets?” Asked Kate as she sat herself down at the table.  

“Oh, they’re still not sure why he hasn’t taken to the medicine,” replied Rita as she poured the boiling water into the teapot.  

“What about his diet? Has anything changed?” Enquired Kate.

Rita poured the tea and grabbed a biscuit tin before replying, “We’ve changed his diet as the vet advised months ago. It’s expensive stuff, but it’s worth it for Henry, we love him to bits.”  

Rita placed the mugs of tea and the tin of biscuits on the table. She opened the tin lid and offered a biscuit to Kate.  

Taking a sweet shortbread biscuit, Kate asked, “Do you think it’s worth seeing a different vet for a second opinion?”  

As Rita thought about the question, she plunged her hand into the biscuit tin and without looking at Henry, gave him a sweet shortbread biscuit, before answering, “No, I think we’ll just persevere with the one we have, he’s in good hands there.” She then took a biscuit for herself and another for Henry. 

 Astonished Kate asked, “Do you think you should be giving Henry biscuits?”

“What biscuits?” Rita asked. She paused before continuing, “Oh, those, he’s always had the odd treat. He’s such a good dog.”  

As we can see, Rita was in a habit of feeding Henry biscuit treats, so much so she didn’t realise what she was doing and then even justified her actions. She was clearly incongruent with her thoughts and actions. 

Do you have a habit that is second nature to you, something you do on autopilot? If so, does that habit serve you well in your personal or professional life?  

The toughest part of all of this is admitting that you have fallen into

Rita’s Dog’s Theory!

Review

It’s worthwhile reviewing your habits once in a while, it may amaze you at what you find!  

If you want to address any unwanted habit, you could try:

1. Promise yourself to focus on your daily actions for a snapshot of time, say three days.  

2. Write down all the things you do without thinking; everything you do on autopilot.

3. At the end of the third day review your written account and select one habit that you think you can change, replace, or eliminate for the better.

4. Now create a plan to change, replace or eliminate that habit.

5. Be highly focused on your plan for the next 10 days and review the effect.

6. Repeat this review every 10 days for the next two months.

From this point on you can reduce your focus while continuing to be mindful of the plan.  

If you’re thinking you can take a shortcut at any point. Think again! According to research at University College London, it can take up to 66 days to form a new habit or break an old one, so the trick here is to be persistent and consistent. 

If you found that you have more than one habit that you want to work on, repeat the process. 

Good luck! 

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