Weight Loss Tip Booklet - 151 Simple Ideas

I’ve had a revelation.

Since the “great recession” of 2008 (which appears to still be in process) came trampling through our economic landscape, I have been — like so many others — waiting and hoping for the rebuilding. When will things get back to how they were? Can we soon return to easier times of job security and stable wages? My ship is weary of white caps; I long to navigate calm seas. When can we be there?

While pondering such issues, it fell hard on me, like a load of gold bricks sold on many radio talk shows as a “hedge against hard times.” The economy — and our lifestyle — will NEVER return to how it was. The “good old days” (such as they were) are in the rear view mirror and we have no reverse gear. We cannot turn around and they will not come back.

That's an upsetting — some might say "terrifying" — concept. Never again will we be able to conduct our lives and businesses like we did “back then.” What we are now experiencing is — and will continue to be — the “New Normal.” Until our last days, and those of our grandchildren, “different” will be “ordinary.” Future generations will study the heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s much the same as we picture the gay 1890s or the early 1920s; wild, excessive, booming — and only imaginable as images in history books.

I don’t mean to be a downer, but it’s time we bow to an ever-apparent reality and accept facts for what they are, not what we long for them to be. Denying the obvious delays the inevitable, which furthers great hurt and denigrates our lives. Striving to maintain an illusory status quo by rejecting reality prolongs its effects; and makes worse the pain.

Having said that, I do pride myself on being positive, while understanding that the set up of this column might appear less than optimistic. Yet, it can be. Due to this unhappy situation in which we find ourselves mired, we are becoming more resourceful, better planning our expenses, accepting gratification in that which we took for granted previously, and we are contributing more to our local communities.

These are wonderful changes. Many considered getting “more involved in our communities” or “cutting back on frivolous spending” numerous times before. However, until now, the pressure was not convincing enough to force action. “One of these days…” has arrived. It is today.

Significant change is always born of fear, force, or pain. No one gets up one morning, totally content with life, and says, "Let me see how I can change it.” Rather, when circumstances become too uncomfortable, we decide to do something different. The great recession has inflicted much fear and great pain, and has forced upon us harsh change. Although things will never be as they were, we overlook that they can be better. We will have tools and techniques never before considered. We will at some point re-establish equilibrium. Our world will forever be altered; yet it will also be unique with a new set of advantages and benefits; unknown to us today, but surely waiting over the horizon.

The quicker we accept that there is no turning back, the speedier we will face the future — and the faster we will experience these new advantages.

Some might disagree with my analysis; I accept that. However, should I be off track — and society does return to “how it was” — there’s is no down side, for if we adjust, we will be healthier and stronger for having worked together and supported each other through these times.

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.
Most of life is done by rote.

For most of us, alarm clocks buzz the same time every morning. The average grocery store stocks over 38,000 items; yet the standard shopper goes to the same store every week, usually on the same day, and chooses from the same few dozen items every outing. We become brand loyal, eating our meals at approximately the same period every day, leave for work at a uniform time, drive a standard route, and return home at a consistent hour every night. Evenings consist of consuming one of a few “favorite” dinners. Entertainment consists of books or magazines from a few select genres and a stable of favorite authors; or maybe a regular line-up of TV shows, which we watch while sitting in “our usual place,” and snacking — or not — on the same foods we had yesterday at the same time. At day’s end, we retire at the same time, even sleeping with the same person (hopefully), only to repeat these patterns come dawn.

This is not to suggest we are unimaginative, bland, nor boring; rather to illustrate that we are creatures of habit; no if’s, and’s, or butt’s about it.

Reality is these habits make life easier. Picture the above scenario where every single day consisted of an entirely new routine. Exciting? Sure — for a little while. After that, just plain exhausting.

The downside of a life assembled on a foundation of habits are the “side effects;” those unexpected results of our patterns. Make no mistake however; they are every bit as much a part of the habit as are the results we seek.  For example, if I’m bored, I eat. If I’m angry, I eat. If I’m sad, I eat. It’s a common routine. It allows me to feel better fast. After all, chips or ice cream not only alleviate boredom, but also go a long way toward holding negative feelings at bay — for the short term. The side effect is a weight gain. I get to feel good quickly, for the simple price of obesity long term.

Conversely, some people read a book when bored; when sad, call a friend; and when angry, take a brisk walk. (There is a clinical term for such folks: “Skinny.”) Whereby their habits also provide comfort, the side effects are healthier. Should I long for such results, I must also develop similar habits.

The thing is that it’s extremely difficult to “drop” habits. Since their sole purpose is to fill voids, simply abolishing them make those holes more painful. This in turn, triggers the very behavior we were trying to banish — which puts our actions at odds with our feelings. In a case like that, emotions almost always win out and the habit — and its side effects — strengthens.

To break this cycle, one must replace the offending behavior with a counterproductive one. So, rather than saying, “I won’t eat when stressed,” develop a plan, such as, “I’ll take a walk when stressed.”  Providing you don’t also grab a candy bar on the way out the door, the anxiety is still diminished — without the pesky side effect. Yes, feels awkward at first (because it’s not yet a habit), but given a few repetitions, it eventually forms a new, healthier, habit.

We never really get rid of habits. We put them in cold storage; we can thaw them out whenever we choose. Unfortunately we do that more times than we consciously choose, which is yet one more habit we can change.

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.

Building supportive relationships

In the end, we are remembered via the relationships we leave behind.

I stand five-eight, no one’s depiction of “towering giant.” Someone of my stature is supposed to tip the scales at no more than 165 pounds. When I was 39 years old, I weighed 250. More frightening was that at such an early age, I experienced chest pains with regularity. As a father for two young sons, I was a ghost. My career was in free fall; my 12-year marriage was in tatters. (When your marriage counselor suggests divorce lawyers, the odds for regaining your long-lost marital bliss are slim.)

Change is born of fear, force, or pain. No one wakes up one fine day and says, “Wow! I really love my life; how am I going to change it?” Rather, unhappy, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed, we resolve to do virtually anything to alter our circumstances; anywhere is better than here.

For me, that conclusion came late one night, sitting alone yet again, pondering sorrowfully the source of my life’s despair. Out of that sadness came the painful realization that the common bond among all my troubles was ME. It was ME who relinquished the reins of my life, it was ME who helped build a dysfunctional marriage, and it was ME who chose to stuff myself, medicating the hurt by eating instead of fixing it. Therefore, if anyone was going to transform my life, it too must be ME.

On stressful days, instead of eating, I started walked. I saw a therapist and I attended weight loss meetings. With such support, I learned to focus on what was triggering the urge to eat and avoid it, rather than lamenting the unhealthful decision when it was a fait de compli. Reacting differently created calm and peace, which in turn lowered the desire to “medicate,” therefore causing weight loss and its resultant health and happiness.

My wife, noticing my enhanced outlook (and shrinking waistline) probed, “You’re planning on leaving me, aren’t you?”

I replied — honestly, “No. My plan is to become healthy. My sincere hope is you’ll come with me — but I am going either way.”

In the end, she opted not to.

When we alter our lives, step one is a conscious decision to do so. That’s obvious. In our newfound zeal, what is less apparent is that the choices we make not only affect us, but all with whom we interact; children, co-workers, spouses, partners, and friends; to name a few. Equally true is that their timetables and needs might be dissimilar from our own; and they might not necessarily be ready, willing, or desirous of pursuing that same objective. Some will choose to support us. Others will slow our progress, while still others will leave us.

The sometimes-painful adjustments we make to achieve our true potential are not excuses to avoid doing what must be done. Yet they remind us that being healthy also means being aware of the impact our decisions have on those we care about. It is a sad reality that relationships come — and sometimes they do go. The better ones remain for long periods while others of less consequence exist so briefly, we don’t even remember we had them.

As I told my children, “Compassion always; but don’t be confused, the price of giving up your dreams is higher than the cost of letting go of painful relationships. That said, do what you can to repair them before you let them go. Other people are involved.”

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.

We’re six weeks into the year; so, how are those New Year’s resolutions workin’ for ya?

If they’re now broken shards lying along the highway shoulder several miles in the rear view mirror, fret not, you stand not alone. According to surveys, as many as 80 percent of people give up their vast and glorious seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time plans by the tail end of January; more alarming is as many as 90 percent are never brought to fruition. What might the foremost reasons for not accomplishing them be? About 40 percent of respondents say they didn’t have enough time (read that “not a high enough priority”) and about one-third say they weren’t even committed to doing them in first place. Basically, they set them to get someone off their back. Yep, nothing says “motivation to change” like a heaping, steaming pile of guilt.

Personally, I think the “New Year’s Resolution” is a manufactured event; akin to holidays we didn’t know existed until we went into the greeting card shop. We respond to public pressure, and since “everyone’s doing it,” we don’t want to pay the social price for not going along; hence we make promises we never intend to keep.

Nothing’s wrong with January 1; I mean why not, it’s as good date as any. But change drives its own train and you better get on board when it’s time or you’ll be left at the station. If your marriage is monotonous and unsatisfying on April 7, you might be single in seven months. Having trouble seeing your belt buckle without looking in the mirror? Why wait? After all, your belly’s not going to shrink by itself, is it? Or, if you get up most mornings with an “ain’t-life-a-drag hangover,” it might seem the perfect date for a decision is the one that’s staring you in the face on the calendar.

I don’t mean to be snarky but in the interest of trying to make a point, the perfect date for change is, well, today. If you re-read this tomorrow, that works also. Yet, per my previous comments, most of us like to feel we’re not alone in our quest; so ever the helper, by the power vested in me (which admittedly isn’t much), I proclaim February 15 as the first annual “This Time I Mean It Day.” (Please insert your own trumpets.) I am attempting to get as many people as possible to recommit to objectives delayed — and equally as important, to celebrate those things we have accomplished already, while supporting others as they reach upward also.

It might appear out of the norm to discuss resolutions when red roses, heart-adorned boxer shorts, and enough chocolate to give us a yearlong cocoa high surround us; but there’s method to my madness. The date was specifically chosen to coincide with the holiday most dedicated to commitment: Valentine’s Day.

When we care about someone and we value the relationship, we take those extra moments to engage in those additional activities that ease their burdens, lighten their load, and lift them up. If we care about ourselves, it seems we need no less. After all, if we don’t take care of us, who will take care of everyone we take care of? (I know; that sentence is horribly constructed but you get the point.)

So, onward self-improving soldiers, carpe diem! Make a commitment. Take a step. Share it with a friend. Don’t worry about joining late; we’ll still be marching on February 16th, June 17th, or any day thereafter. The road never ends.


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. He is also the founder of “This Time I Mean It Day,” a playful holiday celebrating our personal successes, every February 15. Join the celebration and download a free goal planner at the website or contact him at scottq@scottqmarcus.com, www.facebook.com/thistimeImeanit or on twitter @thistimeimeanit

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.
Numbers loom large in our lives. We commemorate birthdays and anniversaries in numbers of years. We monitor wealth in number of dollars. We even categorize our state of being via numbers: IQ, BMI, HDL.

Certain numbers are more popular than others. Take the number “3.” We’re conditioned to “think in 3s,” which explains why we use expressions like “Top three reasons…” or “Three examples…” Angry parents rely on “3.” My father, when upset, never said, “I’m going to count to four;” I’m guessing yours didn’t either.

One is a “power number” too, so when I woke up New Year’s day and noted the date, 1.1.11, I thought, “How cool!” Only nine times per century is every numeral in a date identical. My first “matched set” was 5.5.55 - but I was too young to fully appreciate it. Should I get a second chance in these next 100 years, I assure you there will be extreme gratitude.

However, 1.1.11 caused me to ponder, “Is there special significance from four “1”s? Might there be a cosmic sign in the only year that truly begins at the beginning? I’m not superstitious; but what about lucky numbers? What could “1.1.11” be trying to communicate?

In binary “1111” is “15.” Maybe this year’s providential number is 15? However, with the exception of the Fiesta Quinceañera, “15” doesn’t show up much in our society.

So, I turned to numerology. In full disclosure, numerology is a topic about which I know zero (an unfortunate “power number). I could not tell my Soul Urge Number from my street address. But, I believe there is a lot of adding numerals together (or maybe there isn’t; like I said I really know nothing about it). Either way, that's what I did. I added 1+5 from “15” to get “6” which seemed more probable than “15.” After all, it’s literally in the top ten of numbers. (Why don’t we say “Top Nine” or “Top 11?” See… there we go again…)

Yet, if I'm adding, why not use the sum of all the ones? Wouldn’t that make more sense? So, “4” must be the positive omen we need for the next 365 days.

Oy! Now I’m confused. We have three promising numbers: 15, 6, 4. Add those and the result is “25.” Two+5=7. Seven could work; that feels right. But “7” is so commonplace and run of the mill; everybody and their brother uses “lucky 7.”

Maybe I’m working this too hard. It’s obvious. Staring me right in the kisser is the solution; it’s a great big honkin’ "ONE." And if we’re looking at a new year as an opportunity to change, “1” squares perfectly with it. Most people do not achieve their goals (or “resolutions” if you insist) not because they’re too small, but for the opposite reason: they make too many of them and they’re ridiculously complicated. With great intention, but poor planning, they devise 46-step action plans, with options, timetables, flow-charts, and alternatives. Who has time to keep track of all that? The result? We get overwhelmed and intimidated. We feel bad and when that happens, we give up, feeling it’s more trouble than it’s worth, which is usually true. So, nothing happens. It's a horrible vicious cycle we repeat year after year.

To counter that, what’s simpler than “1”?

If “1.1.11” is an omen, it’s telling us “simplify.” Pick ONE thing each day. Do it until completion. Repeat as necessary. After all, ONE goal here and ONE goal there done well can really add up to ONE happy life.
At the very first session I had with my therapist oh so many years ago, the opening question out of my mouth was, "How long will this take?"

Being ever the smart aleck, he replied, "About 50 minutes."

"No," I responded. "How long will it take until I am fixed; you know, healed; normal?"

I am not alone when it comes to asking that question. One of the first items we want checked off our "to do list of change" is a date specific that we can mark on our calendar alerting us to the face that - voila - goal achieved! Like a prisoner sentenced to hard labor, we want to know how long until we are free.

From a logical point of view, the process of getting from "here" to "there" is actually pretty exhilarating. We find out about ourselves. We discover what we're capable of doing. Others compliment and admire us. Life is new; every sunrise provides the option for multiple new adventures, unwrapping more of whom we really are. It would seem that with so much to gain, we would rather linger luxuriously in the progression instead of charge hell-bent for leather to the other side.

So, what's with the big rush?

I'm not naïve, I am more than aware that it takes work and is, at times, prickly; yet most of our goal-driven society touts reflexively, "anything worth having is worth working for." If I want a good marriage, I will work for it. Raising healthy, happy children is certainly an effort at times. Advancing my career and maintaining my house require expending resources. Certainly the best ME possible is a worthy objective, and therefore stands to reason that it also is worth the elbow grease necessary to achieve it.

We might not always be keen on it, but we are not a people afraid of hard work. So that cannot be the reason why the sprint to the finish line. I believe we are in such a hurry to "get there" because we are terrified of waking up with the realization that we have "lost our motivation."

Like the despondent lover, we plead, "Don't go; please stay. I'll be good. What will happen to me if you leave?" If we can arrive at the altar before being jilted by our fickle paramour, everything will be OK.

Being a student of change (aren't we all?), I am enthralled by our choice of words. After all, words reflect our thoughts. Thoughts determine actions. Watch what you say, it could become your life. Therefore, when we say, "I've lost my motivation," it presupposes that motivation is some foreign entity residing in a distant land. Yet, we are the source of our motivation. We gin it up, and we turn it off. We control it; no one else does. Others can inspire us, coerce us, or force us - but motivate? Not so much. (Ever try and "motivate" a lazy teen? Get my point?)

The premier adjustment on the road to stable, long-term change, is to accept that the locus of control - where decisions are made - is internal, not external. Sure, "stuff" happens, and luck (or fate) can be players. Yet, they are bit parts. I own my spotlight. Once I accept that, the only thing in my way is me.

About the author: Scott "Q" Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds 15 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations throughout the country. He can be reached at scottq@scottqmarcus.com or you can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/bestdietingtips
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.
OK class, today's assignment is to create the most annoying place ever; ready?

Let's begin by populating it with lots of tired, irritable inhabitants confined to a cramped area with hardly any places to rest and absolutely no spot to get comfortable. Many of these folks will wear too much perfume or, better yet, haven't seen the working end of a shower in days. Of course, the whole environment has to be far from home, and - oh yes - let's make it extremely loud.

Now, let's spruce up the annoyance factor by tossing in some arcane commands.

Rule one: You are only allowed to have in your ownership one container of essential items; but the consequences for possessing those is that is you must drag them behind you wherever you go; a ball and chain. Rule Two: Not for a minute can you let them leave your custody. If you want to add more items, you can purchase from a very limited supply of things that will be far more costly than they should be, and you must stand in long lines to obtain them (don't forget, you must have your container always in tow).  Rule Three: Nosy, ill-mannered, discourteous natives will handle and interrogate you at will, sporadically rummage through your package of personal belongings, and time after time subject you to yet additional seemingly useless rules which may change at any time.

I think we're done. What shall we call it?  Dante's Inferno? Hell? How about, "An Airport?"

Traveling has a knack to make anybody cranky; so, I had empathy for the nine-year-old with the pink suitcase waiting in the petrified line to board the jet. Her dad, bent close to her, staring unflinchingly into her eyes, was wagging his finger for emphasis and scolding her sotto voce. "We don't push people out of the way. We wait our turn, do you understand?"

Her eyes drilling into the floor of the gateway, an angry expression contorting her face, she rocked defiantly from side-to-side, holding steadfast, "He's not 'people;' he's my little brother! And he's slow! I want to get on the airplane all ready! I'm tired!"

"I understand," replied her father, "We're all frustrated. But that doesn't excuse pushing. Are we clear?"

"I want to get on the airplane!" She stomped her foot for emphasis and crossed her arms across her chest.

"We will go on the airplane when you apologize to Robbie. Tell him you're sorry."

Begrudgingly realizing she had no choice and finally accepting the parameters, she faced her sibling, mumbled something, then looked back at Dad.

"Very good," he said; hugged her, rose to his full height and took her by the hand as the family proceeded forward. She had learned her lesson, her reward being that she now able to proceed to her objective.

As I watched the drama, it dawned on me that this process does not end when we move away from our parents. It is a sequence that presents itself continually: Frustration. Lesson. Acceptance. Progress. Repeat cycle as necessary until learned.

The only difference between those of us with single-digit ages and smooth skin, and those of us with a few years under our belts and a road map of wrinkles, is that we aren't always fortunate enough to have someone explain the guidelines so clearly.

About the author: Scott "Q" Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 15 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations throughout the country. Join him on a nationally broadcast teleconference about weight loss on March 7, 2010. Find out more at http://www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com