One of the great things about doing something over and over is that the more you do it the less you have to think about doing it.  It becomes automatic, almost natural.  A habit is defined as an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically.  We sometimes form habits without any intention, yet there are other times when we develop habits out of intention and necessity.

It’s just as easy to form a bad habit as it is to form a good habit.  It is often said that doing something at least 21 times solidifies a habit.  Whether that is true in every case is up for debate.  The reality, however, is that the more you do something, the more likely you will repeat it.  If you’re going to be consistent at something makes sure it’s something that is going to move you into your desired direction.

As we move into another year and think about how we want to make adjustments and improvements in our lives either at home or at work, creating good habits to sustain improvements is essential.

Here are a few tips that may help you if you are looking to create good habits in the New Year.

  1. Write it down – What do you want to achieve?  Write it, post it, type it and keep it in front of you.
  2. Consciously execute – You may choose to do it daily or every other day.  Whatever the case, don’t miss opportunities to put into practice the new habit.
  3.  Keep it simple – If you’re not a runner don’t expect to run a marathon after a month of practice.  Start small and work your way up.
  4. Be consistent – When you practice your habit do it the same way all the time (and make sure you do it correctly all the time.)
  5. Have an accountability partner – They may not practice the habit with you but will encourage you when you succeed or if you slip up a bit.
  6. Bonus Tip- Don’t beat yourself up if you slip.  If you get off the wagon, dust yourself off and get back on.

Look to create good habits this year.  And take some time to see if those around you could use a partner to help them develop good habits, too.

  Animal Welfare Training in China

ACTS was given the opportunity to provide a basic laboratory animal science course at the Shanghai College of Agriculture and Forestry to 3rd year Animal Science students.  Our training focused primarily on commonly used animals/mammals in research (rodents, rabbits, dogs and nonhuman primates).  The logistics to actually get us to China and provide this training were monumental and could not have been accomplished without the heroic efforts of Jayne Mackta at GR8 and all of the organizations that support her endeavors.


What may have been a fairly routine training program here in theUSturned out to be much more complex when transported toChina.  There were so many questions unanswered that at times we wondered how this would ever work.  How many students will be in the class? Will any of them understand our English? If we get our training materials translated, will the translation be accurate?  What will the lab space look like?  Where will the animals for the labs come from and in what condition will they be?  Will our supplies arrive in time and will they be able to get the anesthetic drugs we need for the lab?  Did I mention if the students will understand our English?


The good thing about having the distraction of developing and coordinating this training program is that we never had a chance to over think the reality of spending almost 3 weeks in a hotel on a college campus 40 minutes south of Shanghai, China with little Western influence.


Now that it’s all behind us, there are a few reflections we feel worth sharing.


There are many in China that are passionately committed to promoting  animal welfare training at all levels of animal care; from the classroom to the laboratory to the board room -  people are talking about animal welfare.


The students were extremely interested in learning the basics of laboratory animal science.  Without exception, each of the students demonstrated a greater understanding of animal welfare by the end of the course.  As is the case with any school, there will be some in the course that may not go on to a career in laboratory animal science. But for those that do, we were able to provide a foundation of understanding as well as basic technical competence that can be taken to the next stage in their career.


The surface of opportunities for collaborating in teaching and training has just barely been scratched.  Our program was able to touch the lives of 23 students, 4 assistant trainers, 2 translators and several faculty and staff at the college.   We are excited at the prospect of going back and providing more focused training for the faculty at the college so that our efforts there will be sustainable over time as the faculty eventually take over the administration of this laboratory animal science program.   We were reminded that this is just one school out of many that can and will benefit from such a program.


Animal welfare is important inChinaand without exception the people we worked with were eager to do their best in demonstrating this fact.  Like the US with its varied views on how animals are valued, China is a big country with lots of people also demonstrating varying ideas on the value of animals in their society.  On our last day inChina, we had a large celebratory meal with senior administration from the college and leaders from local animal research institutions.  We all expressed our joy for the success of the program and the future of laboratory animal care and welfare inChina.  I couldn’t help but notice that the center piece of this lavish table was three fish bowls. (Much of the discussion was in Mandarin, so I had plenty of time to take-in my surroundings). The center most bowl, and largest of the three, had a dead fish floating at the water’s surface.  One of the smaller bowls had a few fish that were clearly on “their last leg/fin”.  Penetrating all ofChinawith this important message of promoting animal welfare is overwhelming.  So we will do our part with the people we can influence, and hope their influence will be much further reaching than ours.  And just maybe on our next visit, we will be able to report that even the fish are alive and well.


This isn’t a self serving memoir, although a memoir might be something I would like to do in my future.  Instead, I hope this article will serve to illustrate /   help you to better understand the power of self-motivation.   The premise being that if we can motivate ourselves then external motivators will enhance our drive toward excellence.  I use my story because from a very early age I knew what I wanted to be a veterinarian and, in spite of some difficulties and setbacks, I achieved my goal..    It may be that my experience will provide enough clarity to verify the premise. I was born to parents of modest income inWest Philadelphia.  I sometimes would like to say “yeah, I grew up in the hood” but in reality I just grew up in a home where my parents cared about me, pushed me to be better when I wasn’t at my best and let me ride my bike without a helmet.  My neighborhood was fairly integrated, meaning there were black people and white people living as neighbors.  Many neighborhoods in Philly at that time were segregated.  As a kid I spent as much time as possible outside playing with all of my friends.  I could be found playing sports in the street, running around the neighborhood, sitting out on the porch steps late at night, playing monopoly and pre-pubescent games that my mom would die if she know I was playing J

It was a fairly normal existence from the way I saw it.  But as I look back there were a few pivotal things that I believe made the difference for me.  I will just list them in order of remembrance and not occurrence as I don’t think the chronology is so much important as is the activity.  In second grade we spent the entire school year in North Carolina living on my cousin’s farms (The school district in Philadelphia was going on strike and my parents didn’t want us to miss school.)   My Cousin Joe was always happy to let me help him take care of the animals, and I would help as much as I could.  When I returned to Philly I went to private school through high school.  My dad and mom were big readers and encouraged us to do the same.  My mom always made a point to take us to the library often during the summers.  I think I read every book that had anything to do with animals.  It was through this extensive reading that I decided I was going to be a veterinarian.

During high school I started to see that things don’t always go as planned.  All set for college, I was destined to do well at the University of Maryland and begin my journey to becoming a vet.   However, only a week before enrolling I was told that there wasn’t money for me to go to school.  Student loans and grants all fell through and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college.  Thankfully, with a bit of faith and lots of favors from family and friends I found a way to enroll.  Once in college I found out quickly that maintaining good grades was way harder than I thought it would be. I had to work really hard to make good grades.  In spite of all of my hard work I didn’t get into vet school immediately after completing my undergraduate studies as I’d expected.  I received an invitation to attend a summer program for potential vet students (thank you Tuskegee University) .  I worked hard in the program and at the end of the summer session was admitted into vet school.  Today I run my own training company; I have worked for a variety of institutions, and have crossed paths with some of the most amazing people in the industry. I continue to look forward to new opportunities to make a significant impact for good in the lives of the people we have the privilege of working with.

In summary, the foundation of the motivational factors in my life is two-fold. First, as a little kid I already knew that I wanted to be a vet.   I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I believed it could be possible for me.  Second, I believed if I worked hard to move through obstacles and challenges it would pay off. In life people can be and do whatever they put their mind to. They just have to put their mind to something they believe in.  Providing external motivators like bonuses, titles, autonomy, money and verbal encouragement are great, but they will never truly satisfy if there is no internal driver or motivator.   If you are working with a person who seems to lack self motivation, take the time to help them find or rediscover what motivates them.  Or, if you feel stuck and appear to have lost your internal motivator, make it a priority to find it because the reality is true for us all - if we aren’t self motivated, no amount of external motivation will ultimately satisfy.  To discover our internal motivators, and help others find theirs is a significant key to unlocking potential and allowing our best abilities to shine.