Today at chapter, after weigh-in, I sat quietly looking over some handouts our leader had given us to review before the meeting. As folks came in, I looked up , smiled, exchanged a few pleasantries and came back to the pages in my hand. Then, someone entered the room, and it was obvious she had something on her mind. The sparkle in her eyes had gone dim and the smile she typically wears was clearly missing. I know that look… for I have seen it many times throughout the years.
We think we can hide behind the mask, like someone at a masquerade ball, but I know them too well. Here, we know it is OK to remove the mask and share what is on our minds. Together, we will find a solution…or we will simply find the way to let it go. Either way, I am beside her side until the sparkle and smile return. We come together each week to help and support each other through the complex process of weight control and developing a healthier way of living. I wonder how many others in the room also noticed?
Last year, a dear TOPS friend shared with me this lovely poem written by one of her students. I think I’ll make copies to share with everyone next week.
A friend is someone who listens,
He listens with his ears of course,
Not only to my words, but to
The meaning underneath.
A friend is someone who listens,
He listens with his eyes as well,
And searches out the timid thoughts
That hide behind my smile.
A friend is someone who listens
When ears and eyes are not enough,
To find the music in my soul,
He listens with his heart.
Let’s challenge each other to be the type of friend who truly listens; not just with our ears, but with our hearts. Let’s be attentive to the needs of others, especially when they are wearing a mask to hide their true feelings. Help them remove the mask so they can find and share the sparkle in their eyes and the smile on their face.
I Care, Barb
I have a dear friend since our high school days who regularly runs marathons. A marathon is defined as a race covering a distance of 26.2 miles. To date he has run at least one race in every state and province and one in every continent. Several years ago, he challenged me to take on the task at least once in my life as well…not because he wanted me to become a runner but because he felt there were important lessons I would learn from the experience. So, trusting in his wisdom as my guru in this new adventure, I began. After all, he had run thousands of races with thousands of runners.
Some of what I learned is this.
There is more than one winner in every race.
Winning is not just about who crosses the finish line first.
Winning is about getting up and trying over and over again.
Winning is about never giving up!
Winning is about enduring and persisting.
Winning is about encouragement and support.
Winning is about positive attitude and being optimistic.
Most days don’t even have races!
We can’t just measure personal success or failure based purely on race day.
Enjoy each small, yet significant, victory as it happens.
Being better today than you were yesterday is a win that should not be ignored.
String enough of these victories together and success comes ever closer.
I set out on the appointed day with an early time and a commitment to give this my all. I was not youngest, fittest, or most likely to win, but I was determined. I walked with a gentleman in his late 80s and a young veteran who had lost a leg. We began together and ended together. We walked, shuffled, almost ran and helped each other throughout. We finished together hand in hand behind the rest of the pack. However, in my mind, we won! We traveled the distance. It all added up in our minds to success.
Whatever the race, these lessons apply. I continue to work at becoming healthier and stronger in TOPS. I will not give up, and my fellow members will not let me think of quitting. Each day I stay in this race, I win a bit more.
Success is not just a number on the scale. Each good choice and small positive change, each quarter pound lost that seems so insignificant at the time is a victory. By stringing together quarter-pound losses for each week of 2013, we will find ourselves 13 pounds lighter by year’s end and that much closer to meeting our overall goals.
So, celebrate the small stuff. It all adds up and makes a difference. We can and will do this because we are winners!
I Care, Barb
The word “fail” is a verb and is defined as falling short of success or achievement. The word “failure” is a noun defined as the person or thing that is unsuccessful at achieving. I understand the first but am a bit hazy on what constitutes the second. You can fail to stop, fail to yield, fail to complete, or fail to show. Some fails are considered more important than others. You could fail to yield at an intersection, and the result could be anything from nothing to the devastating loss of life.
Each day, we are faced with hundreds of decisions and experiences. Some of these don't turn out as we planned, but at what point do we cross over to the dark side and become a “failure?”
Is there a little man from the Department of Failure running around with a checklist, marking down each time you fall short of meeting expectations?
Is there some formula like f + F = failure, in which f is 10 small fails and F is 3 large ones?
After you have reached failure status, are you picked up by the failure police and taken to failure court?
I contend that failure is the act and not the person. I would also argue that failing is not always a bad thing; there are many lessons to be learned through the act of failing. I still can remember the many lessons that I learned in the simple childhood activity of learning to ride a bike. Also, I believe that the only true failure is in doing nothing...making no attempt to succeed or achieve.
How you perceive the term “failure?" Do you make a couple of attempts at something, fall short of the goal, and automatically declare yourself a failure? Perhaps, you understand that through the act of attempting and falling short, some of the greatest lessons of life are learned. I can assure you that in my lifetime I have fallen short of many goals, and I have yet to meet the little man with the checklist or the failure police. I guess that means I must be successful or maybe still under correction and getting better every day!
Meeting on April Fool’s Day can be quite interesting sometimes! This year, the old English proverb "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." popped up in our meeting unexpectedly. This is another way of saying "once bitten, twice shy." In other words, people are not always who they seem to be.
When people leave their home, they will often leave a light on to give the impression that someone is still there. I guess it is a security measure of sorts. Interestingly, as individuals, we do a similar thing. We act like we are paying attention to give the impression that we are present and on task, yet we are no longer attentive to what is going on around us. Thus the phrase "the lights are on but nobody is home!"
During our chapter meeting today, one of our members expressed her frustration regarding the number of absences of some members in our group. My leader’s response woke a lot of people up! She said that she could understand the frustration but wanted to know how that was any different from being at meeting…yet not present. (Did I mention she is fearless?) She said that it seemed that there were some who seemed to think that just showing up is the same as actually being engaged in the mission of our chapter. Too often they simply go through the motions, giving the impression they are working hard yet doing little to make a difference. Clearly, the lights appear to be on, but nobody is home, and it is almost like they are fooling themselves!
We spent some serious time discussing how we approach the practices of our lives. Are we completely engaged in the necessary functions, or are we simply going through the motions? In truth, leaving the light on when you go away is probably not going to fool a would-be robber, and it is not going to fool those who are working with you toward your weight-loss goal for long either!
Friendship is a selfless gift of honest acceptance and support. Our leader is our friend and leads us through a meaningful meeting about being real with ourselves and others. We can’t fool ourselves into believing that just going through the motion of showing up is enough.
I Care, Barb
It's almost time for the annual airing of a favorite classic movie. I have probably seen this movie more than 50 times and always enjoy it and learn more from it. Do you remember the yellow brick road as the pathway to the Land of Oz, home of the great and powerful wizard? Dorothy, along with her friends the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, set out on this pathway, each in search of something that was missing from their lives. Convinced the great and powerful Oz would be able to help them, their journey concludes with the realization that the power they needed was always present within them.
Like most individuals, I don’t think I fully appreciated this underlying message of the "Wizard of Oz" for many years. Oh, it was a cool story filled with munchkins, flying monkeys, and witches, but for a long time the true message escaped me. As TOPS members, we often search for answers outside of ourselves. Like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, we face numerous challenges on our journey to find the way to live a happy, healthy life. Ultimately, we will find that the yellow brick road can only lead to one conclusion…the power to be all we can be lies within each of us. There are no great and powerful wizards, save the one that exists within each of our hearst and minds.
Let’s look at that pathway we are taking to success. Are you traveling along that symbolic yellow brick road in search of someone or something that will make you successful? Perhaps, like Dorothy and her friends, you have found that the wizard is simply some man behind the curtain. The power to become all that you can be has always existed within you. TOPS is the Land of Ah Ha’s!
Simply close your eyes, click your heels together and repeat…there is no one like me!
I Care, Barb
Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly,
but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.
--Mary Kay Ash
We rarely go out in search of hardship, pain, trauma, or heartbreak. However, they often come in search of us, and when they do, they can provide invaluable learning experiences. In the presence of boundless, unbearable pain–the loss of a loved one, one’s health, or one’s career prospects–we experience a sense of powerlessness. But it’s at such a moment, when we acknowledge that powerlessness and recognize that there are things we simply can’t control, that we become open to profound learning. In the face of great pain, when perhaps for the first time in our lives we are forced to admit we don’t have all the “answers,” we can begin to ask the right “questions.”
I have actually heard fellow TOPS members say that reaching their goals might be easier if they had developed a life-threatening disease related to the extra pounds they carry! In fact, for many people who have been successful in this complex journey, their progress is often linked to a major, catastrophic health issue like a heart attack, a stroke, or diabetic episode. Somewhere within us lies a core of power which we can tap. It is tied strongly to intense desire. When we desire to live, we can access our personal power. This does not mean that all other desires disappear. Competing desires are among the big reasons that people fail to make changes in their lives. They may claim a lack of willpower, but they don’t notice the effects of conflicting desires on their habitual choices.
Let’s suppose that someone wants to eat healthier but keeps finding it too tempting to pass up dessert or give up those potato chips as a snack. The desire for the pleasure associated with the snack competes with the intent to eat healthy.
So we argue with ourselves over the two choices, and this zaps our energy and confuses real desire. Then, if we chose whatever the temptation is, we often become our own worst critics, labeling ourselves as failures who lack both willpower and discipline. This is definitely NOT positive self-talk!
The problem for many of us isn’t that we lack willpower, time, discipline or desire. It is that we are already investing our time, discipline, and desire in defining ourselves as failures.
We must become strong encouragers and supporters of our best actions and tap into the core desire we hold most dear. One very effective method of strengthening your will power is to refrain from agreeing with these sabotaging thoughts that the voice in our head proposes. We must not allow ourselves to be overcome by the challenge. Too often we fail to see the opportunity it affords us.
Do not become powerless in dealing with the challenges of your life. Remind yourself as Kathryn Stockett writes in The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important!”
I Care, Barb
You can't touch it, but it affects how you feel. You can't see it, but it might be there when you look at yourself in the mirror. You can't hear it, but it's there when you talk about yourself or when you think about yourself. What is this important but mysterious thing?
It's your self-esteem!
Know, accept, and focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses—that, in a nutshell, is self-esteem! Self-esteem can have a big part to play in how you feel about yourself and also how much you enjoy things or worry about things. Self-esteem isn't about bragging, it’s about getting to know what you are good at and not so good at. The most important thing to know about self-esteem is that it means seeing yourself in a positive way that's realistic.
Here are a few other things that you can try to increase your self-esteem:
Make a list of the stuff you're good at. It can be anything from drawing or singing to playing a sport or telling a good joke. If you're having trouble with your list, ask your friends or family to help you with it. Then add a few things to the list that you'd like to be good at. Your friends and family can be great resources to help you plan a way to work on those skills or talents.
Give yourself three compliments every day. Don't just say, "I'm so great." Be specific about something good about yourself, like, "I was a good friend to Jill today," or "I did better meeting that deadline than I thought I would." While you're at it, before you go to bed every night, list three things in your day that really made you happy or that you feel thankful for.
Remember that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or color it is. If you are worried about your weight or size, you can check with your doctor to make sure you're healthy. Remind yourself of things about your body that are pretty darn good, like, "My legs are strong, and I can walk through the Mall at a speedy clip."
Remember that there are things about yourself you can't change. You should accept and love these things—such as skin color and shoe size—because they are part of you.
When you hear negative comments in your head, tell yourself to stop. Remind yourself of things you're good at, and if you can't think of anything, ask someone else! You can also learn a new skill (for example, zumba, self defense, a musical instrument) so you can feel good about that!
By focusing on the good things you do and all your great qualities, you learn to love and accept yourself—the main ingredients for strong self-esteem! Even if you've got room for improvement (and who doesn't?), knowing what you're good at and that you're valuable and special to the people who care about you can really help you appreciate who you are right now.
I Care, Barb
As many of you know, I love the game of football and have since I was a teenager. All the hoopla, hype, and excitement of the Super Bowl is over, and the season just concluded.
Sometimes, in spite of our very best efforts, things don’t go as planned. At that point, we can either panic, losing our focus and direction, or we can keep our heads in the game. Being in a state of panic often leaves us thinking unclearly, leading to poor decisions. Interestingly, the new circumstances will offer numerous cues that, if followed, might guide us to the success we were initially seeking.
Yesterday, we saw this scenario played out among the professional athletes on the Ravens and 49ers. How many times did the quarterback drop back to pass, only to find that even before he was able to get set, there was a linebacker in his face? If he panicked, unable to read the information given, the decision he made resulted in loss of yardage, a sack, or at least a wasted down. However, given time to use his experience and insight, the quarterback was better able to read the defensive scheme, identify the location of his outlet receiver, and deliver a pass on target or improvise a running play.
Like a quarterback who is being pressed by a rush of linemen, too often, when faced with the adversity of changing circumstances, we become reactive to the change, instead of responsive to the cues that are offered within the change.
Today, consider how you handle adversity in your life. Do you react by placing yourself in panic mode, unable to adjust to the changing circumstances?
Sometimes, we need to take a moment to breathe and process the information flooding our senses. Like the seasoned quarterback, we may just find that we are able to be responsive to the cues that are presented before us.
The lessons of life are most bountiful during the greatest challenges we face. The good news is we can choose to react and make no forward progress or respond and make the best of what might otherwise have been a blown play.
"The automatic doors were broken. The sign read: Please note – the only way "out" is "in". It is how one perceives the door that determines the coming and going. There are two journeys one must make to have balance…out there and in here. One depends on the other. Every exit is an entrance. The only way out is always in. To move on in the world as it is, one must turn to the resources within."
I love this excerpt from the book Uh-Oh, by author Robert Fulghum. It reminds me that it is impossible to exit anything without first entering. You cannot finish something without first starting. Interestingly, it works in the opposite way as well; in exiting a room you must be entering something else…another room or simply the open spaces. While one does not exist without the other, it is impossible to be both in and out at the same time. As a result, one’s energies should be centered on the resources within the moment or space he is currently in. And when those resources have been exhausted and it is time to move out of that space, then it is time to move in to a new space.
Sometimes after yet another ”diet failure", we feel that there are no more doors to open. But always there is another door. Sometimes we feel that we are at the end of the line and that quitting is all there is left to do. But where there is an "end”, there is also a "beginning”!
When we overeat, we often berate ourselves with regret and inadequacy. We forget to praise ourselves for all the times we made good choices and maintained control. Each new day is an opportunity for correction and a new door to open. Just when we are ready to cry out in despair that there are no more doors, our hands reach out to open the next one at the dawn of the new day.
We must keep on trying to help ourselves and each other. A healthy way of eating is a quiet statement of self-love. Each of us know how easily our minds produce the shallow self-deceptions found in each "excuse" for overeating. At the such times we need to be aware of our choices and understand who we are and why we made them. Understanding is our biggest help in making changes.
Ask yourself, “What is today worth to me?"
The appetites generated by our hearts and minds may have led us to doubt the wisdom of our bodies. However, if we trust the message of hunger our bodies send and listen closely for it, we shall find our way through another door. The more we know about ourselves and the more willing we are to choose to make the best of who we are, the better we shall make each day. When success does not come as smoothly and quickly as we wish, it is important to remember that, we are still learning, we are between seekings, we are looking for another door to open.
Consider the lessons of the simple note placed on the grocery store doors. In your life’s journey you will be faced with many doors of opportunity. Recognize that the only way to reap the benefits of those opportunities, you must first enter. It is impossible to exit a room that you did not enter! Then, move forward and open the next door to the next opportunities waiting for you to discover and enjoy.
We live in a society in which average is good enough for most. “Don’t work too hard” is a popular slogan, and excellence is almost frowned upon. The right to become unequal by choice or effort, to climb toward a pinnacle, is sometimes confused in a misunderstanding of equality. Are we settling for minimum effort in our chapters and setting our goals too low?
As this new year begins, what is your personal target? Are you aiming for excellence? You have what it takes to achieve your best self. The question is: "Are you willing to use what you have and go for it?" If you have decided that this is your year to be excellent, consider the following:
1. Take responsibility for giving up bad habits and invalid assumptions.
2. Take responsibility for setting a positive example in your life.
3. Distance yourself from those who are not helping you succeed, and in fact, may be holding you back.
4. Lead yourself, and others, down new and unfamiliar paths.
5. Work toward the goal and be willing to delay gratification to get there.
6. Be willing to face criticism and jealousy from those who want to keep you stuck in place with them, instead of moving forward.
Is this your year to move beyond average? Our personal rewards are a reflection of our efforts. Successful people understand the greatest competition they will ever face is the one against their own thoughts and limitations. It really is pretty basic; want to be on time…give up being late, want to be happy….give up being sad, want to be great…give up being good! I believe in you and will be cheering for you to become your best self!
I Care, Barb