A new year is upon us and once again for many of us that means it’s time to renew our pledges and commitments to making the changes in our lives that we have been delaying for the last many years.
Three times this week I met with people who told me that this was the year in which they were absolutely committed to losing weight and recapturing the shape they had so enjoyed at earlier points on their lives.
One of the three had dropped by the local Tim Horton’s on his way over to meet me and was gleefully dunking the three donuts he had picked up into an extra-large hot chocolate while he was telling me how determined he was, this time, to shed the extra poundage that was creeping around his middle.
“I really, really want to lose 80 pounds,” he told me between slurping sounds and crumb filled gulps, “my goal is to lose 80 pounds by the end of this year.”
I asked a very simple question, “What will losing 80 pounds do for you?”
And he told me. In fact, he told me a story of pain and suffering, spanning more than 25 years of his life.
He told me how battling to keep his weight under control had been the central focus of his life for as long as he could remember, that he had gone on every diet known to man and that now, in his mid-40s, not only was the struggle ongoing but the extra half person he was carrying around with him was adversely contributing to his health and that he was experiencing difficulty walking up stairs, his load bearing joints were constantly painful, his blood pressure was elevated and he was diabetic.
He told me that losing 80 pounds would give him a new lease on life. Losing 80 pounds would ease the pain he was suffering each day and losing 80 pounds would, more than anything, give him back his sense of self-esteem.
And he told me of the years of despondency and self-discipline and kept telling me that he couldn’t take it anymore and he kept repeating his goal of losing 80 pounds this year. That that was what he really wanted.
And being the kind, sensitive and gentle soul that I am, I told him that that was not what he wanted at all.
I told him that, while his goal may be to lose 80 pounds, what he really wanted was what we call “The Prize” and that “The Prize” is what reaching and achieving our goal does for us.
And while I told him that the goal is important, a goal is merely a means to an end, and that if he focuses on the goal there’s a good chance he will simply repeat, yet again, the disappointing weight up/weight down experiences of his past.
I suggested that rather than focus on goal, focus on The Prize and that he ask himself a vitally important question; how important is it to him to win the prize?
How important is it to him, how badly/desperately does he want to feel good about himself, to really feel and reap the benefits of good health, to walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air and to have joint pain fade away into distant memory?
And I mentioned something else. I suggested that unless it is more important to him to have all of those things then it is to enjoy a hot chocolate and double chocolate donut, and unless it remains more important to him to have all those things then it is to have tomorrow’s hot chocolate, he was destined for a life of breathlessness, stairlessness, increasing pain, high anxiety, low self-esteem and ongoing personal growth – around his middle.
And I asked when he intended to begin this new life, and he said “February.”
And I asked “what’s wrong with today?”
And he said “I’m not quite ready.”
And I asked “why not today?”
And he said “I need a bit more time.”
And I asked “why not right now.”
And he said “okay already, right now.”
And I asked if we could do this together, and if I could share his story. And he said yes we can, and yes I can, but please don’t mention his name.
So we are going to follow his story over the next year.
And we are going to call him Earl.
And for the two of you who have read my book “Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours,” you know to whom we are all referring.
I had this conversation with Earl on Tuesday morning. This morning, Saturday, he called and told me how he found a way of making lifestyle choices based on what was important to him in the long term as opposed to what he wanted immediately and further told me proudly that he has lost 2 pounds since our conversation.
Earl’s story is an important lesson for us all. We all have goals and it is really helpful to understand that it is not the achievement of our goals that inspires us to take action – we are driven by what achieving our goals will do for us.
And we really need to focus on what achieving our goals will do for us, for that is truly what we really want.
And we need to want it really, really, really badly.
So badly that the very thought of not having it causes us great pain, because as we have discussed so often on these pages we do what we do in order to gain pleasure or to avoid pain and many of us will work our hardest- become truly motivated – when we are suffering deep pain. We will in fact do anything to make the pain go away.
And Earl told me a funny thing. He told me that when he left my office he went straight to a clothing store and bought a pair of pants, size 34.
He presently is a size 45.
And he told me that as soon as he got home he stood in front of a mirror holding those pants and imagining how he would feel when he could fit into them.
And he told me that how standing in front of that mirror and seeing himself as he is today, brought tears to his eyes as he stared at the reflection of a man he doesn’t want to be.
And then he described the joy, the elation, the sense of victory, the feeling of great health, immense pride and for the first time ever, the liberating feeling of being in control that he felt as he closed his eyes and imagined himself effortlessly and comfortably gliding into those size 34’s.
And, with those feelings, he discovered his real reason for wanting to lose those pounds. He discovered what achieving his prize will really do for him.
And he told me he was going to hold those pants in front of the mirror every single day until the great day arrives when he puts them on.
And he told me that once he realized what his prize was, and how painful it felt not to have it, and how wonderful and empowering it will feel when he does have it, and how important it is to feel that way, that that became the pivotal moment in his life when he knew that great things w ere about to begin.
Interesting, don’t you think?
Let’s all follow him together and let’s all play a role in his success.
If you have any suggestions for Earl, let me know and I’ll pass them on.
Please join me on Earl’s team.
Till we read again.
P.S. More than 400 people have contacted me to say “I’m in” in response to last week’s blog. Thank you, that is a truly fantastic response.
So, if each of us now ask two others to do the same, by this time next week we will have well over one thousand people committed to seeking every opportunity for expressing our gratitude to, and our appreciation of, others.
Let’s do it.