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Lessons from an Old Dog

Our adopted dog, KC–named, of course, for the Kansas City Chiefs–has been in our family since 2010. We’re not sure how old she was when we adopted her, but we’re guessing around 18 months. Putting her around 14 years old.

Over all, she’s still in GREAT shape considering her age. She has cataracts that affect her sight–but she can still see. She doesn’t hear as well any longer but her nose still works. She can sniff out midnight Domino’s no problem. She can still navigate the stairs up and down from my bedroom daily. She has some arthritis but she’s not in a lot of pain. She has some fatty lumps–but they’re not cancerous so we leave them alone.

However, she’s lost a step. Okay, a couple of steps. She used to be such a jumper that she could escape a 6 foot privacy fence by jumping/climbing over it. If we ever boarded her, they removed her collar, just in case she managed to climb up their chain-link fence to dangerous heights. Without even straining, she could jump up onto my high king-sized bed–that I need a step to climb into myself.

But the past almost two years we’ve been here, I could see that her jumps were getting harder. Especially jumping down from the bed onto hardwood floor.

Naturally, I bought her a set of stairs. Naturally, she refused to use them.

Luckily, KC is highly food motivated, so I ended up buying small treats to lure her up and down the stairs a couple of times. In our morning routine, if she stayed on the bed until I was ready, then I would get her a treat and give it to her if she used the stairs to get down instead of jumping. I thought it was kind of dumb at first that I had to give her a TREAT to do something that was only HELPING her. But it was working. She even sometimes will use the stairs at night to get up and down if she smells someone getting that late-night Domino’s.

And it dawned on me. Sometimes, even though we’re older and supposedly smarter, even though we KNOW something is in our best interest, sometimes we need a little treat to make that habit change.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a guy on TikTok with a master gaming spreadsheet for “winning” your life.

Can I pause here and admit to how many spreadsheets I’ve tried in my long life and author career? All of the productivity and tracking spreadsheets any writer has ever talked about is probably in my dusty Dropbox folder. I can usually do them a month. Maybe a bit longer. Though eventually I just run out of steam. I can see the benefit to doing it. Especially when it comes to accumulating word count. e.g. if I wait until the end of the year to add up my monthly word counts… It’s too late to go hey, what the hell happened in February last year? Why did I fail to even write 10K?

But this “winning” spreadsheet has a gaming aspect that is more unique than the normal spreadsheet. It focuses on “leveling up” your character. Just like in a game. From the humble, clueless peasant wandering around in the countryside without any weapons or knowledge or skills–to the knight with full armor on a quest–to the queen of the universe.

Queen of YOUR universe.

I was intrigued. I do love a good game. I am too competitive by far and had to delete all the games on my phone because I had to level up as far as I could. Buy all of the enhancements with the coins I won. Get the outfits or awards or whatever, no matter how long it took.

Why didn’t I tackle my daily tasks with the same gusto?

It’s a simple concept. Just a checkbox on daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that I assign to myself. They can be basic things, like get fresh air (it’s amazing how long I can go without even stepping outside since I work from home), or more complicated, like mail orders, monthly birthday cards, etc. As you click more boxes, the colors change, and you earn points.

When you accumulate enough points, your character–YOU–level up. You can treat yourself to something.

Funny enough, I’ve only used one of the level treats. I’ve found that the daily exercise of checking off boxes and watching the colors change in the spreadsheet as I accomplish more tasks plenty of reward.

I combined this with a sticker on my calendar for every day’s word counts, keeping track weekly and monthly. If I have a bigger word day, of course, I get a BIGGER STICKER! I have a SHIT TON of stickers. Just begging to be used.

Old dog. With a little treat to lure me into using the stairs.

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