Ac-cen-tuate the positive*

Positive reinforcement works!

Last week I set a goal of listing (and posting) habits I have improved. Now why would I do that? Why don’t I concentrate on what I still need to change?

Well, of course there is the positive reinforcement aspect.

When I was 14, my mom dragged me to a farm in rural Virginia, where she and six other seekers planned to build Walden Two, the utopian society imagined by B.F. Skinner. Reading Skinner, I learned that positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool for behavior change than punishment. I bought in. So as I work to continue improving, I want to pause for a little self-back-patting.

But there is also another reason to list these newly acquired habits. I need to remind myself that change is possible. Changes seem to come so slowly, after so many tries, that it’s easy to feel as though I’ll never improve. Stopping to reflect on achievements, even small ones, helps me keep striving to improve.

So, here’s my brag list. These are things I used to do less than 50% of the time, and now do over 90% of the time. These are small virtues. A large percentage of the population just does these things automatically. I can only say that I envy and admire you. In that order.

  • Flossing my teeth daily, even under the bridges
  • Making the bed first thing in the morning
  • Maintaining a sparkling toilet
  • Keeping the contents of my purse organized in pouches
  • Keeping my keys in the same place
  • Replacing my glasses (I use three different kinds) in their cases so I can find them
  • Waiting for my husband to finish fixing his cereal without nudging him out of the way to get at the spoon drawer
  • Getting some daily exercise
  • Keeping the living room within 10 minutes of “good-enough” company ready
  • Eating a plant-based diet
  • Checking the calendar night and morning
  • Re-reading my emails before hitting “send”

OK, that’s my list. I would love to hear yours.

And for next week:

Eat breakfast at the table

*Here’s the incomparable Aretha singing “Accentuate the Positive”:

4 thoughts on “Ac-cen-tuate the positive*

  1. Your achievements are quite remarkable, Josie. Here are the ones I think I can claim, a little more vague perhaps.

    1. Settling on a food plan of whole plant based and sticking to it, (8 months now).

    2. Not spending money on things I think I want until I give myself a week to reflect on the “need”.

    3. Being more intentional to be social and cultivating people who reflect my personal ideals.

    4. Extricating myself from relationships that are toxic or life limiting.

    5.Bringing life-long goals to the forefront and dropping less important ones.

    6.Thinking more about how I use my time.

    7.Being positive about my speech in dealing with others, complaining less and praising more.

    8. As I am coming into the homestretch of life, thinking about what I really care about and dropping
    the “shoulds”.


  2. This post really inspired me, Josie. Let me see if I can come up with a list. I’m not sure I do these 90% of the time, but they’re things I’m doing more often and I can feel the difference.

    – Cleaning the cat litter more often

    – Composting and recycling as much as I can

    – Spending less time stressing about work and other commitments, and just enjoying myself

    – Learning to relax and do nothing for a while

    – Doing the stretches that keep my back happy

    And the big one…
    – Being more intentional about how I fill my time, by carefully considering what work and volunteering I accept.


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