Weight Loss Tip Booklet - 151 Simple Ideas

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.

I am a perfect-o-holic.

Sure, I know it’s folly; yet I can picture that magical happy place where all goes according to plan and everything works out as I imagined. I have a plan.

Today, I become the pinnacle of modern workplace efficiency. Without exception, every single solitary item on my to-do list will be accomplished — even those lingering on the pad since ‘07. Phone calls will be returned in a timely, upbeat, eager manner, complete with all the necessary and required information at hand. Today, every goal will be exceeded; every deadline shall be beat. Should I spot a customer, client, co-worker, or vendor, I shall stretch out a warm enthusiastic hand in friendship, greeting her with passion, warmth, and energy; developing the ultimate positive reputation. Today, all reports will be finished on time and with precision. Today, the five-year backlog of filing shall be ended. Facebook farm games, really cute cat videos on YouTube, and forwarded emails with titles like “LOL! OMG! You’ve got to see this!” shall not deter me from my mission. I am a rock. (I shall be so effectual that I will have even had enough spare time to properly arrange my computer’s desktop icons in perfect order. After all, I owe it to myself to have some fun.)

Moreover, I will not ignore my most important relationship. Mark this date; for it is when I became the perfect spouse. Should my loving wife require assistance, no matter what else I am doing, I shall immediately — sans attitude, of course — cease all other pursuits, and lavish upon her all the attention she so richly deserves. As illustration of how central is our shared life, I will make time to clean the bathroom, prepare dinner, wash the dishes, pay the bills, and even massage her aching feet, expecting nothing in return. Today, I am the perfect husband.

To achieve these lofty goals, I must reserve time for me, for should I falter, all who depend on me will be let down. Therefore, I shall rise with sufficient time to allow for hours of meditation and soul centering. After which, I shall adorn myself in a made-in-the-U.S.A. fashionable, waterproof, breathable, sweat suit with state-of-the-art walking gear. To which, I will attach a heart monitor, fire up some inspirational music, grab the walking weights, and tread briskly for miles; assuring my heart rate remains in its ultimate target range the entire time.

Upon returning home, I shall shower in purified, alkaline, ionized microwater, and then prepare the most important meal of the day. My healthy breakfast consists entirely of 100% organic, all natural, unprocessed, non-fat, free-range, locally grown, high-fiber foods. Further ensuring complete balance, I masticate each morsel 32 times, one for each tooth.

This will be my new dawn, my genesis, my beginning. All will be perfect!

Before the rooster crows, I am gently roused by my ascending, progressive, Tibetan chime, Zen alarm. Noticing the early hour, the stars against the dark night sky, and picturing all I will accomplish this perfect day in perfect order — I jerk my certified organic ivory-colored, imported, Egyptian cotton blanket over my head, slam the snooze button, muttering, “Yick, there’s always tomorrow,” just like I did yesterday.

A thought crosses my somnolent synapses, “Maybe, this all-or-nothing attitude is overwhelming and holding me back? Would I be more productive if I set more realistic goals?”

Pondering the revelation, I realize that if I did, I’d actually have to change. Why would I do that when everything’s perfect?

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

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.

If deprivation was a successful weight loss strategy, obesity would be obliterated.

At first blush, sacrificing one’s favorites appears like it would blast away those extra pounds, and it does — but only temporarily. Long-term, it’s unnatural and ineffective.

Oh, sure, we can sacrifice our pet foods for brief periods. However, let’s face it, as the joke goes, seven days of bland makes one weak. Without variety, we get bored. Take away our special beloved “fun foods” and we give up, sometimes in horrifying ways.

As example, I decide to implement a new “healthy me lifestyle change,” a complete makeover of my insalubrious habits. My wife, ever the obliging supportive spouse; agrees to assist, so we commence a routine evening stroll. The weather is agreeable, walking burns calories, and the time allows us to re-connect after hectic workdays.

Along the route lies a small pizzeria. I am wise in the ways of weight loss and I know from unfortunate past experience, that the blend of salt, several varieties of cheese, as well as toasted doughy goodness, makes it problematic for me to lose weight. Therefore, I have sworn an oath of “pizza abstinence” until the scale reflects 15 fewer pounds. I am proud to announce that so far, all is going well. I’ve been “pizza-free” for well over three hours.

Fate however can be a cruel mistress and the gentle breeze this evening brings upon it a warm cheesy waft of mozzarella and garlic. As Ulysses being lured by the Sirens, my wife grabs tighter my hand, the rope attempting to bind me to the mast. Unhappily, she is not composed of wood and twine and I tear loose, hotfooting frenziedly into the eatery, no longer able to manage my impulse.

That’s when things got fuzzy.

Although I do not recall the incident after that moment, I am informed by my lawyer that the SWAT team pulled me from atop the front, shaking a terrified 19-year-old clerk by the lapels, flop-sweat streaming from my brow, spaghetti sauce dripping from my lips, while shrieking “Extra cheese, more pepperoni, and three pounds of garlic sticks — and no one gets hurt!”

Okay, I exaggerated (my demand was only two pounds of garlic sticks) but many a well-intentioned dieter has been kicked to the curb by an unexpected overwhelming urge for verboten foodstuffs.

The reality is that over-eating is an addiction; it might be  “small-A addiction,” but in many cases, it can be as debilitating as drugs or alcohol (and the societal cost is far greater). The difference is that with other addictions, one can go cold turkey. It might not be easy and one might need the support of others. Yet, a line in the sand can be drawn and never again crossed.

Food is obviously different. We need to learn to control our intake and to get away from the black/white, good/bad, on/off diet mentality. Thin people eat pizza. They eat chocolate too. Pay attention and you’ll even observe folks with a healthy waistline engaging in a bag of tortilla chips or a large scoop of ice cream. The reason they’re thin — and some of us are not — is that they don’t freak out about what they eat. Should they overindulge, they adjust by eating less or exercising more. For them, it’s habit. For the rest of us, it takes some thought, but anything of value usually does.
Pop quiz! What did they call “multitasking” in the eighties?

Answer: “lack of focus.”

I don’t mean to sound like an old fuddy-duddy (of course, using the term “fuddy-duddy” does tend to portray me as such), but like it or not, I am officially of a “certain age.” More times than I care to admit, I have strutted with strong intention into the kitchen, and upon arrival, completely blanked as to why I was there. Or, finding myself looking for an item in the closet, I will be briefly distracted, and forget what I was looking for. I have, embarrassingly enough, “lost” my keys on the way to the door on more than one occasion.

My wife and I have entire conversations without ever using proper nouns.

“Hi Honey, I saw that guy today.”

“Which guy?”

“You know, the man who did the thing around the house last summer.”

“Oh, with the stuff and that equipment?”

“No, the other one. He worked on the what-do-you-call-it with those tools. You know, over by that place...”

“Oh, him! With all that oily gear?”

“Yeah, him.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

We’re not trying to be secretive; it’s simply that the words don’t form as quickly as we need so, undeterred, we press on in the language of “pro-noun-cia.” (What’s bizarre is we actually understand each other.)

Distractions are prominent in my work, which causes me to regularly bounce from one task to another. As illustration, the vast majority of my time is in front of a computer monitor. I might be — as I am now — writing a column. Whilst engaged in said project, my email program beeps, alerting me to a new message. Like a bright shiny object on a string in front of a cat, I immediately shift gears to examine it. The sender included a link; now I find myself online, searching for a new book. Not remembering the title I wanted, I go to our bookcase for inspiration. There I notice an accumulation of dust, requiring me to retrieve the vacuum cleaner. This routes me through the kitchen and it dawns on me that I must eat. Since I am forever dieting, I track everything I consume, so I return to the computer to do so and remember that today is “bill-paying” day. To get organized for the endeavor, I rearrange my file cabinet — until I recall that I was on deadline. I return to the original mission, having accomplished none of my interim goals and now desperately behind schedule. Oy vey!

So it comes as no surprise that a report this week finds older people have less of an ability to multitask, possibly because they can't refocus as well after getting interrupted. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, the study’s co-author, explains, “Older adults pay too much attention to the irrelevant information.” The problem is they (we?) have “trouble switching back” to the issue at hand and disengaging from the interruption.

The difficulty with multitasking is that we can't really focus on multiple assignments all at once, said Russell A. Poldrack, a psychology professor in Texas. “We are almost always switching back and forth between the different tasks, and there is a cost to this switching, which is why people are nearly always worse when they try to multitask compared to focusing on single tasks.” The solution, according to Mr. Poldrack is — if you absolutely have to multitask — “improve general brain health, and the best way that we know [to do that] is aerobic exercise.”

I hope I can remember that.

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

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
While watching the news this morning, I was alerted to the practice of "combo-pilling," taking supposedly unrelated medications together to produce more powerful results toward a desired outcome. Combo-pilling diet drugs went mainstream in the 1980s, with the pairing of phentermine and fenfluramine (later known as “fen-phen”). This pairing, as well as a commercial related version, was heralded as the first effective weight loss drug treatment. Later, when it was discovered that the commercial drug was associated with potentially fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart-valve problems, it was withdrawn from the market and the manufacturer was sued to the tune of more than ten billion dollars.

Combo-pilling remains, in part because single diet drugs have not yielded the results many seek. After sibutramine (Meridia) was removed from market late last year, the only FDA-approved drug for treating obesity for more than a few weeks is orlistat. However, if dieters eat fat-heavy meals, the results are some less-than-pleasant side effects (oily stains on one’s underwear, being one).

So combo-pilling continues.

Of late, the blend of Topomax, an anticonvulsant approved for the treatment of epilepsy and migraines; and phentermine, the above referenced appetite suppressant, are making their way into the collective dieters’ consciousness. It appears that Topomax effectively “shuts off” the desire to eat. When combined with phentermine, the results can be downright staggering. I monitored some on-line discussion groups and found it not uncommon for participants to claim weight losses of four or five pounds a week for extended periods. (A healthy sustainable weight loss is considered to be one to two pounds per week.)

Using medicine for what it is not intended is called “off-label” use. Although no official data exist as to the extent of this practice, a March 2009 study published in Obesity found that 65 percent of weight specialists belonging to the American Society of Bariatric Physicians who responded to a survey do indeed prescribe “off-label” combinations. The practice is legal; in fact, according to a 2006 analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine, approximately 20 percent of common adult drugs are prescribed as such. (Since the drug is approved and on the market, physicians may use it as they see fit.)

While some doctors are unconcerned, many are raising red flags, pointing out that these medical “cocktails” might be taken for years, causing long-term adverse interactions and unexpected side effects. Since the FDA is not monitoring such usage, authorities might never find out about such problems; and even if they do, it could lead to catastrophic results for those experimenting with untested combinations.

Referencing the aforementioned Internet discussions, the danger seems to be of little concern to some who insist on doing “whatever it takes” to achieve their correct weight; consequences be damned. Said one post, “I started … one week ago and I've lost eight pounds already. I agree with the post above that this may not be ‘healthy’ weight loss, but being overweight isn't healthy either. If this gets me to a healthy weight, then so be it.” Alarming, isn’t it?

Of greater concern to me is not the threat of obesity, but that being overweight is considered such a stigma and so abhorrent that some would literally risk life and limb to drop pounds. If it is indeed so vital to lose the weight, wouldn’t it seem like it might be important enough to rearrange one’s life to eat a less and walk a little more? It’s a slower process, yes; but the worst side effects in that situation are a growling belly and sore feet.

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



What really matters is usually right in front of us

Imagine what life would be like if we each lived exactly 100 years — to the day. From the moment of birth, barring accidents, you knew the exact minute of your death. One some levels it could be reassuring; however, as the calendar years passed, it might get a little freaky. There would be no doubt about how much time was left on your clock.

With that as the backdrop, pretend you are now 99 years and 364 days old, it’s your last day on the planet. You have all the knowledge you can possibly acquire. Whatever you have attempted is considered complete. Your trials, tribulations, and triumphs have left their marks. Lessons have been learned. Knowledge has been acquired. Whatever else you had planned will remain unaccomplished. There is nothing left to do but look back and analyze the story of your life.

Your time has come.

Using that scenario, suppose you could “send a message” back to the real-life YOU of today, the person reading these words this very minute. You would say, “In your remaining years, always remember and stay focused on what rally matters,” and you would list those top priorities so present-day you wouldn’t reach the end of life filled with regrets for being out of alignment.

In an exercise to establish priorities, I have conducted an activity like this with audiences of all shapes and stripes, estimating the total number of people who have done this with me to be several thousand, maybe more. Some have shared their answers; it is not a surprise that almost all are priorities such as: take care of my family, have faith, be healthy, treat others well, smile often, love deeply, or improve my community. I am reassured that I can count on the fingers of one hand when someone shared a dream like “bright red sports car” or “a hot babe.”

I find this wonderfully reassuring because I interpret these hopeful results as meaning that we, as a people, do seem to have a good direction. I think what happens is we get so mired in the day-to-day muck, we forget the big picture. We have our nose so close to the grindstone and our back so bent with our labors, that instead of focusing on what matters, all we get are sore lats and a flattened proboscis.

How often do we not even notice something wonderful that's right in front of us? As example, for Valentine’s Day, my wonderful wife arose first and hung a bright red, shiny banner proclaiming, “I love you forever” at the entrance to our living room. Shortly thereafter, oblivious, I staggered out of bed and wandered into the living room, not noticing it, even as it almost brushed my head. I did observe something that needed to be put in the kitchen so I dutifully picked it up and left the room; still unobservant. I poured a cup of coffee and returned to the living room. I am embarrassed that I had still not noticed the banner.

My wife, upstairs, calls out, "Happy Valentines Day Honey,” assuming of course, that with three trips to the living room, I must have seen her handiwork.

I replied, "You too honey."

She says, "What did you think?"

"About what?" I call back.

She says, "You didn't even see it?"

"See what?"

How many things of beauty do we miss each day, because we forget to look at what really matters? I am keeping my eyes more open today.

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