There are preferable situations for the two methods of dealing with setbacks. Lowering the criteria is a great way to deal with temporary issues and challenges. A lapse in motivation, schedule changes, vacations, and other unforeseen events are scenarios which lowering criteria may help.
However, if you hit a brick wall and it isn’t due to motivation, schedule change, or life change, then it might help instead to go back to kindergarten.
Going back to kindergarten doesn’t mean we start all over again from square one. We only go back to the furthest point in our program where we experienced success. Kindergarten is the symbolic place where things are simpler and easier to understand. Going back to a place where things are easier, we can find what may have gone wrong with the first plan, or come up with a more effective second plan (or third, or whatever).
School for Animals
Trainers always want their animals to succeed. It’s good for the animals’ welfare, and it feels good to see our stars shine. But when an animal hits a wall in their training, it’s frustrating to say the least. What went wrong? Why can’t the animal just get it like they used to?
There can be a slew of unknown reasons why a behavior plan stops working. Each animal is different, each progressive step, a new adventure. Just because one dog learned to retrieve a ball one way doesn’t mean another will learn the exact same way. It doesn’t mean they WON’T learn it, it just might be a different process. We can’t assume something is wrong with the DOG because they don’t understand our way of teaching.
Going back to kindergarten is a safe way to maintain a level of success and try a different path. To keep the game fun and engaging- and that’s what training and fitness is all about. Maintaining the fun and focus.
Going Back to Kindergarten in Action
Here are a few ways I’ve incorporated going back to kindergarten in my own life and in my practice working with others:
25 Other Letters in the Alphabet
Trying to schedule a time for me to complete my physical therapy exercises is a pain in the butt. At first I performed them whenever I thought about it. But that didn’t work too well. I remember it most of the time, but not every day like I want. I’ve come up with several plans since then, and I’m currently working on Plan C.
Each time I try out a new schedule, I implement a pretty nice reinforcement schedule but it still doesn’t seem to click with me. Plan A was to incorporate it in my daily workout. Plan B was during my writing breaks. And now Plan C is just before I start my writing. Each time I came up with a new plan, I reverted back to doing them whenever I remembered, because I have SOME success with that.
When I figure out my schedule which works great for me, I will have implemented a very important habit which will help me optimize my entire life.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why my cat, Sullivan, is so obsessed with reaching up and pawing the counter while we fix his food. We let him do it for one month, then realized he was clawing up the edge of the counter and nipped that in the bud. We use an incompatible behavior with him. While we are fixing his food, he needs to sit on his spot.
But even though we have been doing this method for THREE YEARS, Sully is still often confused. So, we went back a few steps and re-grouped as Sullivan’s parents. He is most consistent when we are positioned to the side so we can see each other. It also helps to have The Kid, our other cat, in the room with him.
We went a slightly different direction with our training than previously. Changing our mentality, the training plan, and maintaining consistency, we now have a lot more success.
When Linda first started coming to the Masters class, I gave her a LOT of attention. As the oldest member, she needed a lot more cueing and assistance than others. Starting out, her body was more de-conditioned than the average beginner, too. When I told her to put her butt down, she would pike up more.
She wasn’t being obstinate. It was more like she was a little out of touch with her body. I had to re-think how I taught her. It was just like training animals. It wasn’t Linda’s fault she didn’t understand my teaching method. I needed to shift my thinking to fit with the way Linda learned.
I taught Linda more basic moves (going back to kindergarten for BOTH of us), and slowly learned how to cue her and progress her in a way she was comfortable. The great thing about this experience is Linda, still the oldest member of my class at 76, but you wouldn’t guess it to watch her in action. She does step-ups, squats (better than me), sit-ups, ring rows, push-ups, battle rope, and keeps up on the rower with some of the more advanced participants. She even does burpees, guys. BURPEES.
If you are feeling stuck, whether you’ve plateaued or dealing with a major setback, it’s okay to go back to the basics. Return to the place you were experiencing success, and try, try again.
Fall down seven times, get up eight. That’s the ZooFit way.