My drive to get in shape is about more than my physical well-being. Getting in shape means I need to improve my mental health, my intellectual capability, my outlook on life and my relationships with my family. I need to eliminate unhealthy habits and activities that lead to weight gain, lethargy, unhappiness and general malaise in my life and the lives of my family.
Often these problematic situations are complex and as we all know, finding the solution to complex problems in your life can be difficult. I am not talking about simple things like figuring out how to keep from losing the car keys or what kind of wine to have with dinner. I mean persistent problems with complex causes that are not always obvious, problems that lead to arguments and hurt feelings in my household, problems that are land mines of emotions, denial and the realization that I often fail.
What is the real cause of my weight gain?
Why do my kids never seem to listen to me?
Why am I uneasy and distant when around my family?
Why do I have trouble concentrating on some tasks?
What do I really need to do to be “happy”?
The root cause of these problems are often based in my behavior, mind set, the way I approach interaction with others and what I am willing to do (or not) to resolve the issue. I am a software developer, so as you would expect, I have developed a rather analytical approach to working through complex issues. Even when based on an analytical process, the need to identify and deal with emotional response is paramount.
Define the problem
Before any issue can be resolved I need to examine the facts. What is happening and why does it bother me? Often this needs to be done in writing. I create something tangible that I can refer back to later as I make progress on a resolution. This step takes a few attempts. The real issue becomes clear as you peel back the layers.
I started with – My kids nag me because I am tired after work and I want to take nap or watch TV. I am just tired after work and they are being selfish because they do not understand what it takes to make a successful career.
But wait, I like my kids. I want to be with my kids. They are asking me to spend time with me because they care about me and they value time with me – why am I upset about that? Don’t I want to be with them also? The kids will grow up fast and they will not always see me like they do now. I have a once in a lifetime chance to influence them. Further, what is the point of a successful career if I can’t share my success with the people in my own house?
So after 3 or 4 versions, I end up with.
I am tired most of the time. My fatigue makes me tired to be unable to be active and play with my kids. I want to be active, but I feel bad after short periods of exertion. I do not feel fulfilled with what I spend my time on. I feel like I am letting valuable opportunities slip through my fingers.
Get to the root of the issue – your own choices
It is time to be brutally honest with myself. I know what is really going on and it is time to quit deceiving myself.
Assigning responsibility of my problems to the actions of others is not allowed. I cannot control how other people act and other people cannot control how I feel. Only I can decide what my disposition will be.
If something needs to be changed, I will have to be the one who makes it happen. This is my problem and I must take responsibility for the outcome.
So here is the issue again:
I am responding to stress in my life by eating and drinking. When I overeat, I get tired I lie down on the couch in front of the TV. After 2 hours pass, I am angry with myself for wasting time – but I am embarrassed also. I respond by being critical and shifting blame to those around me for being too needy. I am hurting them emotionally and they are responding in kind to me which escalates the tension. If the cycle will be broken, it must start with me.
Know the value of resolution
When the road gets rough, I need to be able to remember why I am travelling it in the first place.
The issue again:
I have to spend better time with my kids. It is my responsibility as a parent and as a citizen to make sure they are educated and contributing members of society. Furthermore, I like them. They are fun to be around. Just being around their energy and vigor for life will help me improve. I will be able to use my experience and maturity to build them up and make them even better if I show them firsthand how to live well.
Change is a path, not a destination. Start something new today. If the new approach does not work, stop and try something else. The point is to do something different.
But be sure to focus on the core issues.
I need to lose 40 pounds, so I will buy new shoes and join a health club. But that just makes my wallet skinnier – not the rest of me. Getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier every day and walking around the block is what I need to do first.
I do not have the energy yet to play tennis or ride bikes for 2 hours with the kids, but I can teach them a card game or play monopoly instead of watching TV. I can build up to something bigger.
Burn the bridges back. Get rid of the TV so I cannot choose to watch it even if I wanted to. Throw out the personal deep fryer and buy a salad spinner. Spend the grocery budget on ground turkey and carrots instead of ground beef and Oreos. I have to force a change to my habits by making better choices that cannot be undone when the road gets rough and I feel weak. Do something drastic and make a public commitment.
In The End
This all seems so easy when put into simple steps. It is not easy. It is hard.
There will be many setbacks. But whatever the problem, the cost of inaction is greater than the pain of short term setbacks.
Whatever the issue or whatever I want to improve, I will be honest with myself, I will take control of my destiny and I will succeed.