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Ugly Fences: Protecting New Patterns

You know you’re a full-grown adult when the major topic of conversation at your lunch meeting is how to get the deer to stop eating your plants. We all shared ways we had tried to tackle the problem: sprays made out of garlic, not planting things they don’t eat, or just plain giving up.

The friend sitting to the right of me had been quiet. He finally admitted his tactic: “I have stooped to putting up one of those really ugly, cheap-looking, snap-together fences…in my FRONT YARD….” He told us how out of control the problem had become, how many times they had replanted shrubs, how much they had tried other things that didn’t work. This was the final straw for folks who care about what their yard looks like. The neighbors would surely talk.

It worked. The fence kept the deer away. The shrubs are making a comeback.

At the same lunch meeting, we also pondered out loud how to build a new habit, a better habit, especially when you’ve been stuck in a less-than-healthy pattern for a long time. For a couple of my friends, the habit they wanted to build was delegating more or detaching from email at the end of the day. Can you relate?

The connection between the deer conversation and the habit conversation is worth noting:

New growth – whether it’s a shrub or a habit – requires protection if it is to survive long enough to become well-rooted.

Threats to sustainable new practices can come in many forms:

Feelings or thoughts (what if people get mad at me if I don't immediately reply?)...

or temptations (to try to do and be all things all the time)...

or distractions (that notification button is alluring)...

or beliefs (I'm only productive if I'm busy ALL THE TIME.)

Protection comes in many forms, too, and can range from systemic (setting up focus time on your device) to interpersonal (letting others know what you're doing and how that changes what they should expect from you).

What about you? What new habit are you trying to build? What threatens its growth and sustainability? What are you willing to do to protect it?


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