Yesterday Moon dog was barking at some workmen and as I was walking out I thought "I don't want him to bark at the workmen". Unfortunately, that isn't very helpful to either me or the dog or the workmen. In a rare moment of clarity, I thought for a minute about what I did want, and what I could do to achieve that outcome.
Instead of shouting NO NO NO, I said "come here Moon" and then began to pet him and praise him. He got so caught up in being the center of attention, he forgot all about barking. In fact, he glared at the still barking neighbor dog for interfering with our peaceful moment.
Then I walked in and surveyed my larder as it was lunchtime. And I thought "I don't want to get fat." and then it hit me how often I've over eaten and thought the same thing. So, fresh from dog training success, I tried another thought. "What do I want to happen?" Well, what I wanted to happen was an easy to prepare, filling lunch that would taste good but not weigh me down and fuel me for the remainder of the afternoon whilst I figured out the rest of my life or at least the rest of my day. I tossed a meat/veggie mixture on some pasta and gnoshed away, quite pleased.
The thing is, when you are busy thinking about what you WANT to happen, you aren't worried about what you don't want to happen, what might happen, or what could should or would happen. It's a little bit like the mountainbiking "Don't look at what you don't want to hit."
I've been applying that a lot lately with my animals, with pretty good success. You can't really tell an animal not to do something and be successful unless you give them something to do. If you give them something to do, you don't really need to tell them not to do the other thing-they stop automatically.
I wonder if the human brain works the same way.