Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming
In the mastermind class I've been taking for creative professionals our coach, Dan Blank, shared a video last week. It's called How to Lose Weight in Four Easy Steps. The title sounds like a typical vapid sales pitch but about 20 seconds in there’s a surprise. If you’d like, check it out — however, BEWARE: THIS VIDEO IS “R” RATED for profanity and more. It's about seven minutes long.
I’m not giving anything away to tell you that set right in the middle of what appears to be an unimaginative promo, an abrupt, captivating little story pops up. Sucker-punched by an unexpected turn of events, the main character is sent down a new path. It reminded me of the experience of a friend of mine named Margaret.
The path that led to her big change started out with a similar, unexpected moment.
"This time is different!"
Margaret is mad. “Again,” she fumes, “Again she insults me!”
Margaret flips her signature waist-long, chestnut hair with an impressive toss. Her usual unflappable demeanor is shaken. She is known as a quiet listener with a beautiful face that tends to give little away of what she’s thinking. That is, until her eyes flash. Today they are high-beam headlights.
“This time I’ll show her!”
Margaret is one of those people that you feel you can always count on. Her unruffled composure is a practiced skill bred through years as a key administrative assistant calmly juggling the support of a rising senior executive. When Margaret arrived in the division where I worked a few years ago, her reputation of competence had preceded her.
This is the second time Margaret's calm is cracked.
A year earlier, Margaret had felt a similar rush of rage. So stinging, the words from a co-worker had hung in the air, as though hovering like a separate life form in front of her. “People like you,” she’d said to Margaret, “People like you are the problem.”
Angrily, the co-worker continued, “We’re all paying more for our benefits every year. We should deny health insurance to people…like you.”
Margaret is stunned. Mortified.
But not surprised.
In childhood Margaret had grown up on a diet of foods we now know are not the healthiest but when she was a kid and teenager, didn’t know the difference. Fast food was affordable; sweets and desserts were typical snacks and regular parts of every meal. In her 20s, Margaret had starved herself of calories in order to punishingly lose weight but gradually, with marriage and kids and a busy life, the weight had returned, and then some.
Of course, she wasn’t happy about it. She had tried lots of weight-loss schemes — she’d watched her mom struggle with obesity and try dozens of diet fads over the years too — but the weight had always come back. Ashamed, Margaret kept to herself, allowing few people to get to know the “real” Margaret, behind her body image.
Her weight had climbed to 310 pounds.
When Margaret had stared back at the co-worker blaming her for the rise in health-care costs, a chorus of familiar voices rung out in her thoughts, “You have no discipline. You have no control. You are a failure.” She'd wanted to hide.
But here’s where her typical reaction shifted ever so slightly.
Replaying the woman’s comment over and over in her head, Margaret became more and more irritated with its insensitivity. She struggled with mental arguments ranging from self-pity to insult to shame. Confronted with the cruel words she began facing thoughts and feelings she’d shoved aside and allowed to rest, unaddressed, for years.
What does it look like to be truly healthy — inside and out? Who am I? Who do I want to be?
She realized she ate more when she was anxious and struggling with depression. She’d grown up reaching for candy to feel better. What would it take to sustain being healthy through emotionally low times? Digging deeper for insight she found empathy for others. ”Everyone has problems; they’re just not always easy to see.” And with a shock she realized her undisciplined eating felt like she’d been dishonoring the life she’d been given.
The self-examination inched her forward toward a new view of who she could be.
So now, about a year later, just before rounding the corner of a hallway, Margaret has heard laughter. She happily hurries forward but then slows, hearing the co-worker’s voice who had insulted her before. Margaret turns to backtrack, avoiding the woman as usual, when she stops in her tracks. Clearly, the sharp-tongue carries down the hall, “We’ll call it the Biggest Loser Contest. It starts on Monday. I’m making the rules. Don’t worry. Everyone’s in!”
Again, her words hung in the air.
Monday arrives. Margaret has spent the weekend ruminating on the conversation she’d overheard. She has decided: She is ready. She can become public about the goal to lose weight and be willing to come out from this oppressive mental burden. Although she has tried unsuccessfully before to lose the pounds she is ready to try again. With the help of people she works with it could even be fun.
Monday arrives! In anticipation and a little nervous, Margaret's prepared with a casual response, "Biggest Loser? Great idea! Sure, this will be fun!"
The morning drags by. She overhears a little chatter and ribbing about a "biggest loser." The afternoon hours crawl. Nothing. The clock hands climb to five o'clock. Nothing.
She is not invited to compete. Unbelievably, she is not asked to join in. Slowly, her disappointment turns to anger, “I’ll show her!”
She is ready to act. She starts with nutrition -- "I had to learn how to eat" -- and checked library books out on healthy eating. She stops eating processed foods and drinking soda.
With no extra money for a gym membership, she decides, "I'm going to start walking." The first day she goes out with her children and walks about three blocks. "My youngest was skipping and dancing down the street. I thought I was going to die."
Margaret keeps reading and learning. She brings strawberries to work as a snack instead of candy. She discovers fruits she's never tried...blueberries. Despite her husband's protests, she changes up meals at home, adding lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and serves herself smaller portions.
Every day she walks. Then she jogs a little, rides a bike. She buys a yoga mat and a book on exercise to customize routines for herself.
And as the pounds start to come off, her discipline and determination grow. Though sometimes it's a struggle, the consistency is paying off. Time passes, nearly imperceptibly change is happening. One day Margaret steps on the scale: she has dropped half her weight.
Sounds like being the Biggest Winner to me.
Margaret could probably relate to this and I'm not giving anything away by sharing a line from the How to Lose Weight... video. At one point the narrator says, "Change takes time, but time is all it takes."
It's so tempting to think that change can come with a quick fix, a quick win. But for a change to be lasting, and to shift a course that's been years in the making, it takes perseverance. Margaret knows; her weight loss occurred seven years ago.
"Of course, I still struggle," Margaret says today. "but I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle." So passionate that she started a blog and website to help others make changes. It's called Destination Discipline.
My mission is to share stores of perseverance through challenges, and how this connects us to what matters, and each other. I think Margaret's story illustrates this.
Steps I’ve Taken to Write a Book
Instagram posting of writing 30 minutes/day: Day 92 today. Stay tuned for something fun.
Mastermind writing course: The new one starts today too.
Books I'm reading: I've just started Margaret Atwood's, The Blind Assassin. It's won numerous awards, including the Man Booker Award in 2000. The narrative is doing a little time jumping and I'm a little confused but have faith it will all come together.
Let me close with a final thought from Bowie on change,
I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.