Weight Loss Tip Booklet - 151 Simple Ideas

Complain, complain, complain…

My, but we’ve become a grouchy lot, haven’t we? Maybe it’s climate change, or the economy; who knows? It could be the alignment of the stars for all I know, but we’ve got our cranky pants hitched on and we’re wearing ‘em a little too snug around our sensitive parts.

Okay, maybe YOU are not cranky, but many of us are, and if you won’t own it, I will.

I’m at the supermarket loading up on low-calorie, high-fiber, sugar-free, non-fat, no-taste foods that I force down my gullet in order to keep my weight in check. I really want chocolate, french fries, and chips; but that’s not happening, so I’m feeling deprived. Adding insult to injury, I don’t have time for this errand, but since my refrigerator resembles an arctic cave, I’m cooling my jets in the check out line. The lady in front of me waits until after the clerk has totaled all her groceries before she takes out her checkbook, enough of a trigger to kick my internal curmudgeon into overdrive, “Hey lady!” the voice in my head screeches. “You didn’t realize you were going to have to pay for this before hand? Couldn’t you have check ready when you got in line … besides you’ve never heard of debit cards?!!”  Since I won’t comment out loud (I’m too “polite”), I roll my eyes, exhale with exasperation (making sure she hears it), shift my feet restlessly, cross my arms, and set my attitude to low burn.

Or have you ever had your cell phone drop a call? Jeeze! That irks me! It wasn’t even a particularly important call, and to be honest, I didn’t want to talk to him anyway, accidentally selecting ACCEPT instead of DECLINE because the layout of the phone is so stupid. Nonetheless, I’m now heavily vested in commiserated about how his 62-inch 3-D TV’s glasses suck. Really? That’s your grievance? There are people who would love simply to witness a sunrise, and you’re grouchy because your nifty cool absolutely amazing invention doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries? I mean, come on!  Yet, I’m empathizing — at least until his call explodes in a burst of static and I detonate a blast of curse words at my phone, cellular carrier, and even the government for allowing such inferior systems to get to market.

Time for a chill pill; on the grand scale of life, most of what rankles us is not even a blip on the radar screen of “real” problems; it’s microscopic. Half the time, we don’t even remember it long enough for it to survive the ride home, let alone why we got so upset in the first place; yet we’re singing “ain’t it awful” with the volume on full.

I’ve got a phone in my pocket that connects me to anyone on the planet, lets me watch family movies, listen to music, and take photographs. It’s got more power than the entire computer system on the Apollo space crafts; and I have the gall to launch a hissy fit because I have to push REDIAL? Or I complain about having to drop a few pounds — while half the planet would beg for what I throw away? Spoiled, you’re table’s waiting.

We don’t live in a golly-gosh-gee-willikers fog of happy thoughts and pink ponies; I’m not saying that either. Sometimes, life is tough, sure.  But equally true is that most of our “problems” are better than what most of the people on most of the planet face most of the time.

For that I need to be mostly grateful.

About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CDO of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at the site or friend him at facebook.com/thistimeimeanit. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com.
I’ve heard tell that dog owners (or “guardians” as some prefer) look like their dogs. I did not realize with how much haste that transpires.

We have been considering adopting a dog for a few years. As with any important project, we began by identifying what we wanted. One, he must be a rescue dog. Two, she must not be bothered by our two cats (of course how they respond to the dog will be their decision). Three, we wanted a smaller dog that had some personality but was not hyper.  Those were the “must haves,” the remainder were “would likes.” We surfed websites, monitored our newspaper, and checked shelters and animal control with regularity.

Welcome “Jack.” He’s a five-year old mini-Schnauzer with a persuasive, mostly subdued personality who loves our backyard, follows me like a shadow, is housebroken (yay!), and even understands some commands, allowing me the option to train him even more; something I wanted. While I write, he has already taken to lying in his bed, apparently content to watch me type. (I guess he’s hard-pressed for entertainment.)

As for similarity — although I did not think of it when I picked him up; he already resembles me (or I do him). His hair, although dark of base, is basically “silver,” slightly disheveled, and he sports a gray goatee in need of a shave. More striking is that he is also into yoga; I’ve seen him doing “downward facing dog” repeatedly. (Insert rim shot here…)

The one attribute of which I am NOT fond is that, although he slept through night one without incident, he is evidently an early riser, quite contrary to myself. A perk of self-employment with one’s home as the office, is the ability to grab a few extra winks each morning, since my commute consists of four stairs. Alas, I fear those days have passed, as Jack is part rooster, prone to rise with the sun (especially ill-fated since this is summer and first light is unfortunately early).

Therefore, today, I awoke far earlier than was my pattern. My wife, snickering wickedly, commented, “Looks like your days of staying up late are over.”

Growling (yet another similarity with a dog), I dragged my carcass from my bed to begin this new, unexpected routine. Change had once again scampered into my life, this time in the form of a twenty-pound canine that could not wait to take a walk. “I must teach him the command, ‘sleep,’” I wearily lamented as I secured him in his harness.

But that’s the way it is, isn’t it? We make our plans and move forth into the yet to come. We believe we’re in control — but it’s illusion. Life steers; we are passengers. Whether changing how we eat, seeking mental health, developing relationships, financial planning, or simply adopting a furry friend, the results of our actions cannot always be predicted nor controlled.

So, once again, I am fine-tuning to the unexpected, a progression without end, and one in which we all engage non-stop. Sometimes, the adjustments are painful; other times, thank God, they are minor. Yet it is unavoidable.

I detest getting up early; it fouls my mood.

But, conversely, I can be buoyed by the outpouring of warmth from this newfound community of “dog people,” which has already been as heartwarming and loving as the joy elicited by Jack when I reach for his leash and we head out into the (too early) morning. It’s my choice.

Now, which one of us is really training the other?

About the author:  Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CDO of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at the site or friend him at facebook.com/thistimeimeanit. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com.
Being a news junkie, I’m glued to the cable networks. Wedged between the peccadilloes of badly behaving starlets and inappropriately tweeted photos, the anchor brings in two political panelists to discuss the upcoming election (Already? Really? Oy!) To feign “balance” he has a GOP strategist and his Democratic counterpart (as if there are only two sides to a story – but don’t get me started). I don’t remember the first question, and frankly, it doesn’t matter; but what I do recall was once the argument commenced, it became animated without delay. Lots of energy and of course, disagreement, exchanged between the duo.

It could have been either one; but in this case it was the GOP guy who started “powering” over anything stated contrary to his position. When the Dem countered, the Repub would shout him down, yelling ever louder. He didn’t call names; he wasn’t condescending; and – to be honest – he made logical sense (although I disagreed). But this is not about politics.

After the “discussion” ended, I had a mental image of him talking to his friends off-camera. They were probably all high-fiving, shouting, “Wow! You blew him out of the water,” or “He couldn’t hold a candle to you.” Congratulations would abound; backslapping would ensue.

That’s when it dawned on me; his intention – as far as I could discern – was NEVER to have a discussion, but rather to prove his point; and that’s what showed.

The number one law of change: Intentions direct actions.

When a client asks for advice, my first reply has become: “What’s your intention?” Almost nothing matters more in one’s actions or communications than understanding that unassuming question. Unfortunately, most of us do not take the time to dig deep enough to analyze that. The result is we find ourselves in a most unhappy place.

Let’s take a simple example. You’re upset by someone else’s comments. Your feelings are hurt. So, you decide that you “need to talk to her.” That’s fair; and if done well, it’s even “healthy.” But if the intention of what you’re trying to achieve isn’t clear to her, you’ll get in hot water. If the intention is to “give her a piece of your mind,” your communication will be much different than if it is to better understand what she meant, or to heal a rift. If you are looking to minimize the chance of conflict and actually accomplishing something, slow down long enough to understand the intention (preferably BEFORE opening your mouth; but it’s never too late).

This is because attitude transmits louder than words. A popular study went so far as to say that what we say accounts for less than ten percent of our communication; it’s tone and body language (attitude) that matter most. In effect, we might be able to massage what we say, but it’s a heck of a lot harder to mask what we feel.

We can apply this same principle to our own actions.

When trying to change a habit, it’s imperative to first analyze what is the intention of the offending behavior. What does it get us by continuing it – and what is the resultant cost? Once we realize why we we’re doing it —our intentions — our next question can be “How do we achieve those goals without the unpleasant side effects?”

Every behavior is born of positive intention; one designed to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, if we don’t look beneath and understand those intentions, we can create a mess, even if that wasn’t what was intended.

About the author:  Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CDO of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at the site or friend him at facebook.com/thistimeimeanit. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com.
Until moments ago, I was unaware of the term, “to throw a wobbly.”

Looking for a more colorful way to declare, “I am annoyed,” I stumbled upon the expression at a website devoted entirely to idioms and their etymology. (Fellow word geeks unite! Our time has arrived!)

Sure, I guess I could have simply said, “I am annoyed.” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s clear, simple, to the point. However, fashioning myself as craftsperson of the language arts, I forever seek out-of-the-ordinary turns of a phrase to spice up how I communicate, the intent being to make it more vivid and engaging. Not being much of a cook, I presume it’s in the same manner as a chef would feel if confined to white salt and black pepper. Sure, they’ll do the job; but where’s the fun?

Should you — like me — have been in the dark about “throwing a wobbly;” let me explain. Turns out, it’s not a good substitution for “annoyed.” Rather, it appears to be of British or Australian derivation, coined from the adjective “wobbled” which meant someone was “off center.” So, “throwing a wobbly” can best be described as a petulant rant; somewhat akin to “throwing a hissy fit.” It is however not as severe as “going ballistic.” Now, don’t we feel smart?

Alas, it’s still not the correct usage for what I want so it’s back to being annoyed; or maybe cranky. I don’t know; can one be both? Sure, why not?

Hmmm, I seem to have digressed. The bigger issue is, “What prompted said (poorly described) uncomfortable emotional state?” I shall explain.

Today’s email heralded an e-solicitation from an unheard of someone looking to introduce me to a nutritional protein shake that “can be used as a meal replacement for weight loss and better health.” Not interested in hawking the product, but apparently driven by a more pressing desire to procrastinate on more urgent deadlines, I opted to follow the web link. The page materialized with imagery of beautiful bodies, healthy meals, thick chocolate shakes, and, of course, a prominent “Order Now” button.

According to the text, if I drink just one shake a day “and follow a healthy diet and exercise plan,” I will “lose weight, lower my cholesterol, shed inches, and improve digestion.” Curiosity now engaged, I searched the Internet for dietary aids, and realized virtually every site had a similar disclaimer: “…when combined with a healthy diet and exercise plan…” It might not have been prominent (usually wasn’t); but there it was, plain as day; just like the six-pack abs on the smiling male model.

See, here’s the thing. Should I weigh too much, and should I then choose to “follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly,” I will have no choice but to “lose weight, lower my cholesterol, shed inches, and improve digestion.” It has nothing to do with powders, pills, or potions. Moreover, I can take the money saved to purchase new clothing to better adorn my now-healthier, happier body.

It’s not that such products are all without value; if they help you stay on track, and they’re healthy, and you can afford them, well, as they say, “You go girl!” Yet, it’s vital to remember there is no “magic shake” substitute for behavior change. Until one is willing to make the mental shift from “it’s about what I eat” to “it’s about how I live,” she will continue to be frustrated enough with the results to throw a wobbly.

About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CDO of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or friend him at facebook.com/thistimeimeanit. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com

It seems like merely days ago the public dialogue bounced between the skyrocketing price of groceries and gasoline; the rising up of working people in the mid east — as well as our own mid west; and the rambings of a seemingly unstable, implausibly garrulous celebrity whose veins course with “dragon’s blood.” It seems like just days ago because, well, it was.

Time zips by without delay and such topics are soooooo last week. In point of fact, nothing has changed except our attention. One still needs to refinance his house to purchase groceries (if he can find a willing bank); riots and unrest in northern Africa continue; and that particular celebrity — well, he just won’t shut up, will he?

Yet, we have been radically refocused.

My wife woke me last Friday with alarm in her voice, “There was a huge quake in Japan. It’s triggered a tsunami warning here.” As it turned out, we were spared; however, when I flipped on the television to find out what evacuation might entail, I — probably like you — witnessed the horrific, gut-wrenching images of a “first-world country” laid low by a one-two gut punch of earthquake and its resultant tsunami; the strength of which not only literally moved Japan, but shifted the Earth’s axis, and even altered time.

How can mere mortals come to terms with the concept of such seemingly unlimited power? It is indeed reminder that we reside on Mother Earth at her pleasure; a privilege she may revoke at any time with nothing greater than a flick of her authority. It is humbling to realize how inconsequential are we in relationship to the planet on which we exist.

Do not misconstrue my statement as, “We are insignificant.” Quite the contrary, we are awesome creatures with immeasurable capabilities, blessed with brilliance, and gifted with limitless grace and goodness. It’s just that — once in a while — we get lost. We forget. We bind ourselves into knots about events and activities that mean — on the grand scale of things — virtually nothing.

I whine about being delayed by excess red lights when I’m rushing to an appointment. I complain to the clerk about the cost of fruit, as if she does not have to deal with it for her own household budget. I boil with rage when I reflect on the contractor who never correctly fixed our leaky roof. Each of us has our “ain’t-life-awful list,” which we are so quick to pull out and share whenever needed (and usually when not).

To put it in perspective, my car is a “beater,” but it’s also not crushed under the rubble of what was my house. I am able to go where I want, when I want, while driving on (mostly-intact) roads. Food might be pricey, but I am not in an endless queue hoping for a relief truck, donned in a mask as a thin barrier against disease and an expanding nuclear disaster. Yes, my roof really leaks; no, it shouldn’t. It’s damn frustrating. But, I am not sleeping in a tent of bed sheets in freezing temperatures neither. Until the leak is repaired, all I need to is place a bucket on the floor and sidestep the wet place.

As they say, “There but for the Grace of God goes any of us.” We survive. We are mostly comfortable. For those, be grateful. Yet, with gratitude comes responsibility. We must provide what we can to those who are enduring so much. It could be us, and we would hope for no less.

Note: For a list of organizations taking donations for Japan, you can go to http://tinyurl.com/HowToHelp123

About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CDO of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or friend him at facebook.com/thistimeimeanit. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com
Ever have one of those times where you obsess over whether or not you took care of something at home? You know, like, “Did I lock the door?” or “Did I remember to shut off the oven?” You’re sure you did; at least it seems like you did. But the further you get from home, the less convinced you become. After awhile, the doubt burrows into you brain and you finally decide, “What the heck, I’ll turn around, go home, and check it out; ‘just to be safe.’” Of course, you were right in the first place. The stove WAS off. The door WAS locked. All was fine. You feel silly, relieved, frustrated, angry with yourself; (choose one or “all of the above”) but continue to your destination; ten minutes late but no longer encumbered by the phantom brain wave.

It doesn’t mean you’re ravaged by OCD if it happens every so often. I think it’s normal (at least I hope so), After all with so much on our minds, sometimes we don’t mentally check off the smaller events. That’s what happened to me yesterday.

The saga began as I mounted my bicycle to ride to yoga. With clear skies and a light breeze, it was weather made for a commute. I had allowed enough time so I could ride at a leisurely pace, admire the scenery, breathe deep the cool air, and be grateful for being alive. All was as it should be; at least until the gremlins got me.

It began with a random thought, “Did you close the garage door?”

Understand, I have never left the garage open when I’ve left my house so there’s no reason to assume I had done anything but that on this occasion. Yet, the more I tried to turn down the noise, the louder it became. With every crank of the pedals, the more I worried. Deciding I was ruining a perfectly good bike ride, I opted to return home and confirm the house was indeed secure.

To turn around, I pulled into a driveway but due to its narrow width, I couldn’t complete the action. I tried to put my feet down while straddling the frame, and waddle backwards to the street. Alas, due to the slope of the driveway, combined with my less-than-towering height, my feet couldn't reach the ground. The bicycle (with me attached of course) began rolling backwards; before I could extricate myself, I lost balance. Upon realizing gravity was going to win this battle, I stretched out my arms to cushion the blow, landing with a severe THUD next on the curb to a garbage can. My right hand took the brunt of the impact; shortly before my jaw bounced against the concrete and my ribs smashed against the tubular frame of the bike, leaving me in a tangle on the street.

As cars passed, I wondered if anyone would stop, or did they consider a middle-age guy laying in the sewer some sort of performance art or misplaced garbage?

“Look honey, isn’t that a man sprawled in the gutter next to a bicycle?”

“By Jove, I think you’re right!”

“Do you think we should see if he’s okay?”

“Why should we? It looks like the people in that house tried to throw him away, but missed the can. We don’t have time to pick up other people’s trash. However, you’d think they’d have more pride in the appearance of their property, don’t you?”

With a collective “harrumph,” and noses turned skyward, they would drive on. Whether or not that was the conversation, no one stopped.

I assessed the damage. My jaw and hand were already throbbing but I was obviously conscious. I could — with much pain — move my fingers and my mouth. My chest ached; yet I could breathe. The bike was fine; my mirror and light were askew; but simple to fix.

With no small amount of effort, I pulled myself to vertical; considered my options, and came to the thankful realization “on the grand scale of things,” it could have been worse. I was startled at how grateful I actually was, despite the pain.

Therein lies the lesson. Most of the time, “it could be worse” and someday “it will be worse.” But not right NOW — and that’s where I live, right now. I’m no Pollyanna; I understand “stuff happens” (and 24 hours later I am seriously considering a trip to my doctor to check on my hand), yet I was able to continue on with my plans and make it home just fine (albeit more slowly). There are people whose daily experiences are far worse than most of what happens to me in an entire lifetime. When I put it into that perspective, I am grateful. When I dramatically lay my forearm across my forehead, close my eyes, toss back my head, and lament, “woe is me,” it does feel worse.

As a dear friend reminded me, “When everything seems crazy, remember to breathe” (even if my ribs hurt).

Oh yes, I had locked the garage door.

Improving oneself is not difficult. It might be uncomfortable. It might be slow; but difficult? Not so much. Figure out what you want to change; figure out a way to do it, move in that direction, correct as necessary.

So why don't most people change? The unadorned answer is we make it too complicated. The simpler the plan, the more likely we will accomplish it. To that end, here is a straightforward Five-Step Plan to move forward immediately.

1) Write it down

There's nothing magic to this, but once done, it makes it “real.” It also helps if we don't just write down what we want but why we want it. Emotions drive action. Logic directs it. As example, "I will lose weight to lower my blood pressure," is not as effective as "I will lose weight to feel better." As they say in sales, “We buy what we want, not necessarily what we need.” We need to “sell” ourselves on why we want it more than why we should do it.

2) Make it Small

Small steps done regularly generate better results than large steps done intermittently. In other words, it's better to get out a walk a block - and really do it - than to swear you're going to run a mile and plant yourself on the couch. We have to "squeeze" new activities into an already crowded life so the less we have to rearrange, the more likely we’ll be consistent. Ten or 15-minutes with consistency is better than “an occasional hour.”

3) Do Something Every Day

No matter how small the step, do SOMETHING each day, even if it’s simply refining what we wrote. Maintaining top-of-mind awareness retrains our thoughts to focus differently. That alone causes us to notice previously unseen opportunities.

Of course, there are days when “life happens” and we cannot move forward, which can bring out our critical inner perfectionists and we are inclined to think, "As long as I blew it, I might as well really blow it. I'll start again tomorrow.” This leads to undoing our progress. It’s important to remember everyone stumbles; progress is two steps forward and one step backwards.

4) Get Support

There are things we do well and there are things we want to do well. Making life-changes falls in the latter category, not the former. After all, if we were accomplished at our goals, we would have already achieved them. Building a network of support can guide and direct us when we feel lost, and applaud us when we aren’t. There is always more power in a group than in a single person (for better or worse).

One other benefit to group support is it "shuts the back door." Too often, we don't tell people our goals because if do, we have to actually change. Well, short of the fact that you can change your mind, announcing our plans does make us more committed to achieving them. Keeping them “quiet” allows us to back down quicker, which prompts the question, “Am I really committed to this?” (a discussion left for another column)

5) Reward Yourself Often

Change is as much emotional as it is physical. Holding off the goodies from our "inner kid," makes us feel like we’ve got one more chore in an already tedious life. We get resentful and quit. If however, we can make it more fun, we’re more inclined to keep at it Life is short, enjoy it - and remind yourself more often of the pleasures.
When my mother celebrated her 70th birthday (I was a mere lad of 40), I asked her if she felt any different from when she was in her thirties. She pondered the question for a moment and replied, "No not really. I look in the mirror and it's obvious I'm not who I was - and the parts don't always work they way they used to; causing me to slow down. I've got some annoying aches and pains. But, big picture? Inside, I feel like I always have."

I've since queried other seniors about whether they feel "elderly." Whether the respondent was 70, 80  - I even got to ask someone who was 99 - the answer was almost always identical, "I pretty much feel like I always have.'"

This begs a question: At what point do we accept that we're "old" - or at least "older?"

This somewhat gloomy line of thought has been prompted by the realization that if we come with a warranty, I fear mine lapsed recently. Since I hit "double nickels," seemingly all at once, my parts are sore, not working well, acting quirky, or just plain out of sorts. I have pains in places where I did not even know I had places. I am continuously complaining about some dang cramp or soreness, which I do not like doing, and I assure you that is definitely NOT me. My foremost fear is that I shall soon devolve into a cranky, wrinkly, grey-haired, curmudgeonly man-creature, who brandishes his cane at the clouds and rants at the heavens about the unfairness of life.

This is even more troublesome because I'm doing my bit to forestall that unhappy outcome. I walk regularly, eat well, take vitamins, don't stress (except about this), attend Yoga classes, ride a bike; and - I might point out - I'm a heck of a nice guy! One would therefore assume with such a powerful curriculum vitae of healthy habits and proper outlook, I should easily surpass 125 years before I even go so far as to pull a muscle.

My loving wife has (gently) pointed out that I'm "not as young as I was," and these symptoms could be interrelated. However I refuse to accept it's the aging process. I'll age gracefully (whatever the heck that means) but will not go gently, so off to the doctor I go where I inventory everything that's sore, bruised, inconsistent, nasty, gnarly, gross, inflated, swollen, hot, cold, flat, red, or black and blue. He types and listens; studies the computer; clarifies a few details; and then says, "I've got good news and bad news."

"What's the good news?"

"There's nothing serious; no need to worry."

Sigh of relief... "What's the bad news?"

"Your wife is right."

"But Doc," I proclaim, "I take good care of myself," as if that argument will cause him to reverse the prognosis.

"Yes, you do. But at your age, things don't recover as quickly. It would be worse if you weren't doing what you're doing."

So, that's it? Sounds like an attitude adjustment might be in order.

They say this is a "normal process" and I'm obviously I'm in it. In all honesty, I do enjoy the peace, self-confidence, and serenity at this stage of life. My marriage is wonderful. My friendships are close. And, overall, I am happy with where I am. That's what really matters.

Placed in that perspective, I can handle a few bumps, bruises and a periodic cramp, as long as it's "nothing serious." I really do think I'm fine with that.
I can uncover the dark cloud behind any silver lining. No matter how undersized the trigger, with just a little time — and a whole lot of paranoia — I can blow it up into a full-scale panic attack. I am no amateur; I have developed this ability beyond the level of a fine art; and I am able to apply it to any aspect of life with equal proficiency.

For example, sometimes I walk from one room to another and forget why I was going to the new location. It happens, you know? I’m busy; I had a spark of an idea which didn’t lock it into the right location in my jam-packed brain and suddenly, there I am standing in the center of my living room staring at the wall painting, befuddled, questioning myself, “Now, why did I want to come in here?”

I could simply laugh it off, attributing it to the “human condition.” But, no, not me! I use this minor brain-blurp as a springboard to convince myself that I have the first symptom of long-term memory loss, providing me an opportunity to freak out about my vanishing faculties, forgotten youth, and the inevitable bleak fate which awaits us all, apparently much closer than I anticipated. From there, I spin into a tornado of dread and fright, racing to the internet, researching Alzheimer’s, dementia, and senility. It goes without saying that once one enters the festering, moldy hallways of the world-wide web, countless unimaginable horrific ailments are all now on parade, many of which can now be attributed to this very circumstance. I might as well give up, accept the inescapable, collapse to the carpet, hold my knees tight to my chest, while rocking back and forth, and babbling incoherently.

All right, I’m really not that bad; I’m taking poetic license. Please don’t send me referrals for therapists. This is what we call the “set up” making a broader point.

Research has actually proven that humans are “hard-wired” to assume things will go cattywumpus rather than not. Given the opportunity to attribute a random event to either good new or bad, we will usually assume the road has more potholes than flat patches.

In ancient times, it made sense to assume the worst. Primitive hunter-gatherers would go into an idyllic serene valley. The optimists would find this yet one more reason to relax, breathe deeply, catch fish, lie in the sun, and assume the best. Their counterparts, pessimists, spent every waking moment distressing about any type of calamity, turning their existence into an unending backbreaking chain of toil and labor, always one step shy of collapse.

Said the optimists to the pessimists, “Relax, take a load off. Don’t worry so much.”

Said the pessimists in reply, “Are you kidding? This whole thing could come apart at any second. You’ll be sorry.” With that, they’d turn on their heals and race into the hills, in search of protection from the impending, unforeseen catastrophe.

As it happens, while the pessimists are away engaged in their grueling method of survival, the river overtops its banks, drowns the unaware optimists, and leaves only the pessimists — who therefore became our ancestors. The trait of hard-luck survival has been passed down ever since.

Anticipation and planning surely have their place. Yet, it’s equally important to realize that worry is interest on a debt not yet owed. After all, if worry made things better, I single-handedly would be able to correct everything.

It’s going be what it’s going be, enjoy it while it’s here.
Building a life is constructing a house. Create a solid foundation. Once achieved, place down brick one. Secure it. Add additional ones nearby or on top. Check stability. Repeat until desired results are obtain. Of course, many times the “curb appeal” of our domicile is not exactly what we thought we were building, appearing as happenstance. Walls are crooked. The garden has weeds. The entire thing seems in a state of disrepair.

“Why is my marriage a mess?” “How come I weigh so much?” “Will I ever save enough to retire?” These are all questions a life-contractor might ask when examining a “dwelling” that appears not at all as the architect envisioned.

Nonetheless, each structure is built to our exacting specifications. Granted, sometimes “stuff” outside of our control happens. Earthquakes, illness, even political forces, can interfere with well-developed plans. Yet, the underlying truth for the vast majority of us is that the vast majority of time, we are where we are because of what we have done so far. Want to live differently? Act differently. New materials and a modernization might be the order of the day.

It seems like a simple solution. Yet the unhappy truth is that to accomplish that also takes planning. It is essential that we examine each and every brick; come to a decision as to whether or not it’s functional, as well as which others rely upon it for their support. Then, and only then, can we choose whether we simply demolish it or must substitute it with another. Of course, we can even retain some exactly where they rest.

Unfortunately, too often, we take the tact of a demolitionist and attempt to simply “start over.” That’s folly, oft-time guaranteed to fail, as we cannot just knock everything over and start anew. Those bricks labeled “how I treat my family” or “what I do for a living” are cemented to those emblazoned, “sit rather than walk,” “eat to handle stress,” and “chips instead of vegetables.” Starting from scratch is the metaphorical option of being homeless. I might not like where I live, but it beats the street. “There’s always tomorrow.”

Let’s presume however, that we take a more long-term line of attack and begin the careful disassembly and future reassembly. There is yet that other level: that pesky slab upon which everything rests. If we erect the most magnificent mansion rooted in a plot of sand, further problems are ensured. In this cautionary fable, that foundation consists of thoughts and feelings. Our actions, the bricks, are built upon inextricably intertwined thoughts and feelings. Should they not be able to direct well our actions, we shall yet again be housed in a hovel.

This begs an urgent question: Do we control our thoughts and feelings or do they control us? In effect, are we victims to the synaptic firings and hormone-driven changes of affect; or do we create them to serve our needs? Who is the master — and who is servant?

If we believe that we have little or no control over what enters our consciousness — in effect, they just “happen” — we are forever at the whim of those electrical impulses and influences. Any plan at any time can be immediately disrupted by seemingly random fluctuations pulsing though our system.

Conversely, if we can accept that our thoughts and our feelings can be developed, guided, molded, and in some cases, even controlled; we are given the most powerful tools imaginable. With those in the toolbox, there is no limit as to what we can construct.

About the author: Scott "Q" Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 15 years ago, he works with overloaded people and organizations who are looking to improve communication, change bad habits, and reduce stress. He can be reached for consulting, workshops, or presentations at 707.442.6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com. He will sometimes work in exchange for chocolate.