After 17 years of writing a column syndicated in Northwest CA (and on this site), I will be in my first national magazine!
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Getting Past What Holds You Back with Baby Boomer Weight Loss Expert Scott 'Q' Marcus
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There are countless apps designed to help one achieve goals, ranging from diet and exercise to being more organized, to simply uplifting one’s mood. For those less inclined to make change via an app, I’ve heard of some who journal, use to-do lists, or even pray and meditate on the desired outcomes. Of course, hiring a coach helps too. (Hint, hint…)
I am not judging any technique. If you’re dedicated to your goals and willing to do the work, however, you choose it, more power to you – especially in this ever-stressful world in which we find ourselves. That said, if you personally felt stuck and would like to make some changes; whether health-related, financial, or emotional, this four-question process is ridiculously easy to use and amazingly effective.
It seems silly to start here, but the reality is oft-times we fall short of our objectives because we’ve never defined the outcome clearly. We say “I want to feel better,” or “I want to get more fit.” Whereby those are lofty intentions, they’re not concrete enough to drive us to an endpoint. Sure, they might get us started, but we’ll often stall because we don’t know when we’ve arrived and the journey feels daunting and without end.
It’s more effective to state a goal such as “I will walk 30 minutes three times a week;” or “I will take time each day to write down five things for which I’m grateful.’
Being able to identify a clear change in behavior is essential to achieving goals.
Obviously, if we were doing what we needed to do, we’d already be where we want to be. Since we’re not yet “there,” something must adjust. To that end, we have basically four options: start a new behavior; stop an existing behavior; do more of an already-existing behavior; or do less of an existing behavior.
Behavioral changes therefore might be, “put a 30-minute activity appointment in my calendar on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday;” or “reserve 10 minutes each morning to record those things for which I’m grateful.”
The trick here is not to line out an entire series of changes, but to define one simple, effective adjustment you can make to move forward.
They’re like being bundled up in warm blankets with soft pillows on a cold morning; comforting, supportive, relaxing. Who would want to willingly change that? Continuing the metaphor, it can feel like moving to a sleeping bed on a hard floor, no air mattress, and the heater isn’t working.
Since we are in a period of paradigm-shifting, life-altering, stress-inducing, overwhelming change, I thought it might be helpful to understand why it’s so difficult to get new habits to stick.
Firstly, remind thyself that all change is spawned of fear, force, or pain. No one wakes up thinking, “I love my life! Let me see how I can change it.” We change because we see no alternative and because the “old system” wasn’t cutting it anymore. Maybe the times are different. Maybe we’re different. But something must adjust, and sadly it’s us. Being inspired to change by “negative” feelings also automatically puts us at a disadvantage as we’re not thinking clearly, to begin with.
To that end, know that there are actually five levels we must tweak, each deeper than the one prior if we’re going to make our sleeping bag become a cushy, fluffy bed.
Let’s say you’ve decided to be socially responsible and be concerned with the greater good by wearing a facemask. However, each time you leave the house, you forget your mask. An example of Environment change could be relocating your mask to a hook by the front door. Now, it will prompt you to wear it. Simple. Easy.
If I don’t modify those, my Environment reverts to unsupportive.
Continuing with our illustration, upon returning home, you remove your mask and put it in the washing machine. That makes sense, but that behavior means that when you leave, Environment is no longer provoking you to wear a mask. Consequently, a Behavior change must take place, such as obtaining a few masks and placing them all at the front door, plus remembering to hang cleaned masks there when you finish the laundry. This alleviates the difficulty of “forgetting” to wear one.
“But, I can’t keep remembering to put masks all around my house,” you might reply.
Your perceived – and that’s the operative word – Capabilities determine which Behaviors will stick or fade. If your internal dialog is, “I don’t have time to do this,” or “I have too much else to do,” you’ll give up new Behaviors, putting you back to square one.
Beliefs, despite appearing as facts to us, are really not. They are feelings. They are not true for all but are to us. Continuing in our mask saga, if my Belief is that “masks are unnecessary and a pain in the behind” (um, poor choice of body parts for masks but you get my drift…), then you will consider it unimportant and pointless to amend your Capabilities to reinforce that you can indeed manage a couple of masks. Resultingly, new Behaviors fade, the Environment becomes unsupportive, old habits return. If my Belief changes to “I feel it’s important to wear a mask, no matter how awkward,” Capabilities shift, producing a positive domino effect.
With only a few hundred words, I can’t really delve deep into the concept of Beliefs, as there are so many extenuating conditions that affect them.
We possess multiple Identities in which we adorn ourselves, depending on conditions. For example, my Identity of “Romantic” is certainly welcome and appropriate when it’s my wife, yet I would be out of line with my co-worker. Identities, like outfits, adjust to the settings in which we find ourselves. Rounding out the now overworn mask tale, if my Identity is “I am too busy to deal with this,” my Belief might be “this is ridiculous;” yet again collapse the dominos. Should I alter my Identity to “I am socially responsible and concerned about spreading the virus,” then Beliefs correct to “I feel it’s important to figure out a way to do this.” My Capabilities will now line up that empowerment. Behaviors adapt. Environment adjusts. New habit locks in.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. If you would like a free graphic of this topic or to know more about his workshops, go to www.ThisTimeIMeanit.com/handout
Striving to be perfect is at best a barrier to actually getting “better,” and — in many cases — an excuse or a justification to avoid having to change one’s bad habits.
A bold or unusual view? Maybe; but, as an example, let’s take a common scenario. Suppose you decided to do something about those “few extra pounds” you’ve been carrying around lately. With fierce determination, you emphatically announce that you’re giving up anything sweet, fried, gooey, crispy, brown, sugary, or with even a hint of alcohol. Furthermore, you will start writing down everything you eat, cook with only organic ingredients, read all labels, consume unprocessed nutrients only, count all calories — and, on top of all that, start a daily 5AM walking program.
“I’m going to be perfect on my program,” you boast, with chest proudly swelled, to anyone who will listen.
And you are – until the end of the first day.
By nightfall, the constant drone of annoying phone calls, interruptions, cranky constituents, unmet deadlines, and various other unexpected events has you drained. You drag your tired soul into the house, drop your purse on the table, collapse on the couch, exhausted, and tell yourself, “One beer won’t hurt. Besides, after a day like today, I deserve it.”
That’s true. Those 20 pounds weren’t caused by “one beer.” The extra weight was actually caused by the thought that follows.
As you lick the last remnants of golden foam from the glass, you are reminded of the promise you made yourself. The thought immediately explodes into the forefront of your mind: “Oh-oh, I blew my diet!” There is a pause while you consider your next step. But before you can tell yourself it’s only a minor slippage and get back on track, the next spark that scampers across your tired gray cells is, “Well, as long as I blew it, I might as well REALLY blow it. I can always start again tomorrow.”
Once the dam has broken loose, the remainder of the evening consists of “one last night” of scavenging the kitchen, finishing off the ice cream, tearing into the bar of chips, eating the peanut butter from the jar, swallowing a pound of cheese slices, and — oh yes — making sure the six pack of beer will be gone before you go to bed. You do all these (or at least you tell yourself), “so you won’t be tempted tomorrow. If I can get it all out of the house, I’ll be OK.”
It sounds good in the moment. And when the alarm buzzes the next morning at 5AM, reminding you to do your walking program, you think, “Oy, it’s so early. I’ll start that on Monday.”
You head to work, face the same day you faced yesterday. (After all, aren’t most days pretty similar?) And, at days end, you come home, collapse on the couch — and repeat the process.
The problem lies not in drinking a beer or having some ice cream, but in the thoughts that lead to the actions; as well as those that follow.
For example, if instead of perfection, the goal had been to be “better about my health,” the diet would have been off to a great start on day one. Yet, since the measure of success was all or nothing – perfection or failure – day one fell within the loss column. In a world made only of blacks and whites, a near miss is as bad as big miss. There is no difference. Since we can never be perfect, we will always be falling short. Since we’re falling short, we’re a failure. Since we’re a failure, why even bother to change?
When we “fail”, we seek comfort. Although “bad” behaviors might not be healthy, they are comforting. That’s why we do them; for emotional support. It’s ironic, but focusing on our failures therefore actually increases the odds of engaging in those very “failing” behaviors.
On the other side of the coin, if we can focus on successes — no matter how small they seem — we are inspired, which sharpens the senses, allowing new feelings and, therefore new ideas to move to the forefront of our thoughts. As a result, new patterns are generated; negative behaviors are reduced. There is as much truth to the statement that “success breeds success” as there is to the truism I share in my seminars and keynote speeches, “If guilt and shame were motivational, we’d all be happier, healthier, and more successful.”
That’s just plain stupid. However, to change the results we get, we first have to change our view; because the reality is we cannot change anything but that and our own behaviors. Our co-workers, family members, constituents, council members, might — and I say might — make minor changes to accommodate us, sure; but the bottom line is we will still have to adjust what we do. It is imperative, especially in the challenging times in which we now find ourselves, that we must find ways to congratulate ourselves whenever possible and be less hard on our ourselves when we mess up.
Success only comes in small steps. That’s frustrating, sure; however, failure arrives in a great big clanging, bang, and all at once. The choice of what we call the results of our actions can make all the difference in how well we do what we do.
Strive for Imperfection: Don’t try and do it all, just do one thing more than you did before, congratulate yourself for that. Repeat as necessary.
This post gives an overview to one of Scott’s most popular presentations. You can find out more about it – and you can hire Scott to do it – at scottqmarcus.com/TopicTitles/StriveForImperfection.html
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These types of soft skills are highly sought after in the workplace, and are integral in maintaining a happy and long-lasting home-life. Improving your ability to communicate can have a tremendously positive impact in many areas of your life. You can expect an increase in happiness, confidence, and successful social interaction.
It is important during the communication improvement process to break down communication barriers. It is often the case that people construct barriers and fears based on past communication shortcomings, and these hurdles are often difficult to overcome. A person may rush when speaking due to confidence issues, or rarely make eye contact when listening. They may steer clear of conversation with strangers or avoid conflict with a family member or colleague. An improvement in your communication skills can help you better express your opinion or feelings. These improvements can help you everywhere, from the boardroom to the bedroom.
When asked what effective communication skills mean to them, the average person often forgets about the role of listening. Being a strong and proactive listener is integral in communicating effectively. Effective communication skills are as much about listening as they are about speaking. Active listening is an important component of understanding the person or people you are communicating with, and allows you to better reach out to them. By effectively communicating feelings of grief, happiness, or remorse, the individual improves their ability to empathize and sympathize with those around them.