Lumping Creates Bumping: Skipping the Baby Steps Slows our Path to Peace

In our training right now, Carlie and I are working on building our skills at a distance. Recently, I was attempting to teach her a new skill – where she sits and waits while I walk away 20 feet and then give her a ‘down’ signal.

I expected this to be fairly easy since she already knows all the elements. She knows front which means come and sit square in front of me as well as finish which means go around me to my right and finish with a sit on my left side. I called front and started the process, called finish and then asked for a stay. So far so good. But when I proceeded to walk away 20 feet to call the down, Carlie broke the stay (she got up and followed me).

So my trainer came over and asked me what I want to accomplish with Carlie. I told her and she immediately asked me to break it down into smaller chunks and then build it all together. As my trainer keeps reminding me, once you add a new skill to an old skill, it now becomes a whole new behaviour for the dog to learn. Teaching combined skills all at once is called ‘lumping’ and lumping often ends up confusing the dog and you get even less of the behaviours the dog already knows well.

Too much lumping leads to bumping because in this case, Carlie no longer was clear about what I was asking of her and a disconnect was occurring in our training. If she isn’t clear, then how can she successfully learn what I want her to do and to participate with me?

Before you can run, you first need to walk. Before you can walk well and automatically, you need to first learn to stand up and learn balance. There is an order to this process and lumping balance together with walking without first learning to stand up will thwart the overall success of what is desired – the freedom to walk!

Our trainer modelled for me a process and immediately Carlie engaged with her. I then followed where Carlie quickly grasped my intention and we succeeded in our goals quite quickly … so much so that we had time left to play tunnel and Treiball and caveletti (series of small jumps). Whoopee!

In considering this situation with Carlie, as well as observing and listening to people in relationship (as well as my own patterns at times), I realize how much lumping we do in relationships. We lump together a request of 2-3 needs without breaking them down and clearly communicating one specific need at a time. Or perhaps we aren’t clear what our objective is in our relationship and so our boundaries and communication lack clarity, bringing confusion to the core relationship dynamic. Other times, people within the relationship decide to change some core dynamics and they invoke about 3-4 new behaviours that need to be ‘learned or acquired’ all at once.

For example, when people realize they need boundaries to protect their own energy levels and core needs, they frequently think of all the places they need to stop saying ‘no’ to someone. Or they need to stop letting someone else walk over them or call them names. What I invite them to do is pick one area where they are willing to say ‘no’ to someone else’s comments, requests or negative behaviour. Start with one thing and work at that boundary.

Putting too many new boundaries in place without context or rapport with someone else is ‘lumping’. This approach leads to ‘bumping’ – I often hear people report that they give up when too many steps are requested of them or they experience significant push-backs from those they care about.

Baby steps may not look as classy as giant leaps, but they work. Baby steps may not be instant, but they lead to effectiveness and proficiency. Baby steps may not feel inspiring at times, but they lead to solid success. Enough baby steps create momentum and momentum can create quantum movement or shifts. Speed and inner peace come in the success of our baby steps and in the trust that we are respected by those who care about us.

As I learned with Carlie in our training, one needs to get clear about the outcome that you really want in your relationships. Create a clear vision of how you wish to show up in your more meaningful relationships. Then take some time to sit with yourself and see what skills and attitudes you need to develop or deepen to have healthy boundaries and avenues of connection to sustain these meaningful relationships.

If you need support or assistance to enrich or clarify your own strategies for meaningful relationships and healthy boundaries, please consider my upcoming workshop Cultivating a Joyful Life: Balancing Self Care within Relationships (November 1st & 2nd, 9:00am–5:00pm) or individual coaching sessions with me. Call or email me today.