Sunday, February 21, 2010

Setting Myself Up for Success

Shopping for clothes (so I'll look better and thus be able to help more animals at events, of course, because I need that justification to spend the money) got me thinking about setting up for success.

It's a common phrase when talking about training animals. You want to set your pet up for success. It's why my foster cats spend at least a week confined to the bathroom in my tiny studio apartment. It's inconvenient as heck for me, but it gives them and Toby a chance to become used to each others' scents. If you just throw two cats together, it's very likely that something will go wrong, especially if it's the home territory for one of those cats. Once things go bad between two cats, it takes a long time and a lot of difficulty for the people to get things back to neutral. So I set Toby up for success, I wait and I have patience.

When I do introduce the cats, it's always observed and for short periods of time and they get separated as soon as either seems upset or anxious. I think this is why I've only had one incident in the time I've been fostering. And that cat leaped for Toby as soon as he caught a glimpse. Toby tried to turn tail and run, but the foster got a good enough swipe in that he ended up needing to see the vet for an infected abscess. I tried to set them up for success that time but failed. It's okay though. I'm human and humans sometimes fail. Thankfully nothing worse happened.

But with the shopping Saturday, I realized I was taking one small step toward setting myself up for success, but that I needed to do more because I had been setting myself up failure every morning.

I've been trying to get out of the apartment earlier in the morning. I'm not a morning person whatsoever. I've tried, but I'm not. So it comes down to my morning routine, making sure it's stress free (because of how I am, anxiety can affect me pretty badly in the mornings) and quick. I realized today that I've been setting myself up for failure in the mornings by having a closet mostly full of clothes that don't fit. Which every morning not only reminds me of an area of my life that (especially when tired and cranky) I can consider a failure, but also means I spend time pawing through my closet seeing blouses I used to love to wear to work, that I can't wear.

Back in the fall I wentthrough my apartment and round up two large storage bins worth of items to donate (including the storage bins--see Studio apartment mentioned above). It included shoes I haven't worn in years, books I never reread, random clutter I had no need or use for, and clothes that were more than two sizes too small or that I simply didn't like. But I kept a lot of blouses that were too small because I loved them and jackets that my upper arms can't fit into. I don't want to give them away because I really do think that, within a year, I'll fit back into them. However, I just left them in my closet cluttering it up and giving me trouble in the mornings.

When Toby was chewing paper towels and waking me up at 3am, I realized that I wasn't setting him up for success by leaving the roll of paper towels out after cleaning. So (and this I realize is obvious) I removed the towels and did set him up for success. Now, most nights, I make sure that the roll is places in a drawer or on the fridge--out of Toby's normal nighttime prowling routine. When I remember to do this--I don't wake up at 3am to the sound of Toby eating a roll of paper towels.

Why wasn't I doing this with myself? Why wasn't I removing the obstacle to my morning success? Probably because it was easier with Toby to see the situation clearly. I still sometimes make mistakes--while sick I woke up to Toby curled up in a bed of clean lotion tissues he had pulled out of the box that I had left on the cocktail table. Overall, it's not personal for me to look at Toby and analyze his environment and influences when trying to figure out why he isn't doing what I want him to do. With myself? I just thought it was my own darn fault I couldn't get an outfit together in the mornings.

Well, yes and no. It was my fault. It was my fault that I didn't set myself up for success. What woman could quickly put together an outfit staring at a closet full of ill-fitting clothes? So...I set myself up for success. Before putting away the fruits of my shopping laborsI took everything out of the closet that doesn't fit me perfectly right now. Now, I'm not following the usual advice for clutterbugs and getting rid of it immediately. I'm doing a version of Apartment Therapy's outbox. They're in a box in my closet and not in my way. I won't even open that box until I notice my current clothes are getting loose. I'll reevaluate in a year. Right now, having those clothes in a box on the floor of my closet means I'll be set up for success in the mornings.

I'll also be reminded to do laundry more by how empty the closet looks. You have no idea how easy it is to put off doing laundry when your closet "appears" to be full of clothes still.

I think I need to do this more often, look at failures in my life not as simply something I haven't been able to do, but separate from it the way I do with Toby. With Toby I look at what tempts him into "bad" behavior and then figure out if there is an easy way to remove the temptation. I need to just do that for myself. So from now on, I'm setting myself up for success. When I find myself repeatedly engaging in behavior I don't like, I'll look at what tempted me into that behavior and do what I can to remove that temptation.

I should show myself the same understanding and kindness I show to Toby and the animals at the shelter. We all should.


The Amazing Trips said...

I love that idea to help sort out your closet. I've been looking at mine for a long time now and thinking that I just want to get rid of SO many things - but where do they go, and am I absolutely ready?

Recently, I took more than 1/2 of our children's stuffed animal supply and stuck them in bags in the garage. I did it to cut back the clutter and what surprised me is that they didn't even NOTICE that they were gone. And, everyone is happier because clean up time is a snap without so much stuff.

For me, the key to setting myself up for success is getting rid of so much stuff that just BOGS me down. Keep only those things that I use and ditch the rest.

Of course, it's a lot easier said than done... :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

hi, bethany! fun blog. love animals, especially cats. And great idea of our being as kind to ourselves -- or at least as thoughtful about -- as we are to them.

I'm also trying to get in touch with you, so if you can write me, please, at, it'd be awesome. you won a book. :)

Jaime said...

Hi Bethany,

just got your comment on my blog - ThoughtsFurPaws - about the puppy miller moving in.
As far as I know there are no plans for a protest of any type.
HOWEVER...That doesnt mean that you and I can rile up a group of people to do something about it and to let the city and individual know about our unhappiness with this issue...

Jaime Smith

Bethany said...

Thanks, Amazing and Michelle. The first week of it has gone ok so far, although I think I need to refocus on sleeping.

Jamie, I no longer live in Cleveland (and likely won't be back until the summer) but I've already sent links to your blog to friends and family still there. I'm hoping to put together a coherent post about it (referring people back to you in it) in the next day.

Jaime said...

Bethany that's great-- feel free to have your local friends and fam email me at Perhaps we can get a grass roots level protest underway as I have quite a few people in my own network locally too.

Thanks so much for forwarding my link. Would it be too much to ask of you to Tweet it as well???


Jaime Smith

EJH said...

What a great entry!!! You've inspired me... I'll get back to reading your blog after I have removed at least 5 items from my closet!

I really need to start an "open when 5lbs lighter" box :) It's amazing the difference 5 lbs makes!

prashant said...

everyone is happier because clean up time is a snap without so much stuff.
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