May 23 – Making intentional changes

May 23 – “Our words reveal our thoughts; manners mirror our self-esteem; our actions reflect our character; our habits predict the future.” (William Arthur Ward)

It really isn’t that much of a mystery, is it? By War’s way of thinking, it is relatively easy to measure what a person is about. If I want to know about a person’s thoughts, follow their words. To know what they think of themselves, see their manners. To know their character, watch their actions. And, if I can observe them long enough to know their habits, it will tell me about their future.

All four of these element: thoughts, self-esteem, actions and habits; come together within me to help make me who I am. If I want to change something about myself, I need to start at the beginning with changing my thoughts about things. And, if I want to get a read on where things are going, I need to look at my self-esteem, actions and habits.

There have been three times in my life when I have made a conscious, intentional decision to make a major change for myself. Twice it was related to losing weight and being healthier (one of those times is happening right now), the other was when I took the Dale Carnegie course in 2000.

The year that I took the Carnegie class was a tumultuous one in my life. That is also the year that I started my weight loss process for the first time. That year, where I work, there was an announcement that all of us would be divided into 3 groups at the end of the year. These groups would be based on our performance. Those in the lowest group would receive no raises or bonuses. Two consecutive trips to that group meant that you would be fired. The plan was ill-conceived, and then not well thought out. The managers doing the ranking had no training or framework on how to make the measurements. It was a nightmare that the company abandoned after only one year. At mid-year of that first and only year of the program, I was told that I was a candidate for the lowest group.

I was shocked and angry. Then, as now, I worked hard at what I did. I delivered on my objectives and had a track record to prove it. My manager at the time didn’t know me well, and liked me less. He was forced to submit a name, and submitted mine somewhat out of spite. The criticism of me was that I didn’t get along with others well. I decided to take action and find books and classes to improve how well I got along with people. One that I chose was the Carnegie class.

I entered the class skeptical that it could do anything for me. I was taking it so that in the future I could point back to the actions I’d taken as my evidence for not being in the dregs. I have written here before about how the class changed me.

In the class I took a hard look at my thoughts and actions. A little at a time I made commitments to take on new patterns. I very intentionally made changes to how I thought about things, which guided my actions. Those new actions formed into new habits, and my future course was altered. Most importantly, along the way I started to feel good about myself again. My self-esteem drove my manners in the right direction.

The same process happened when I joined Weight Watchers. As I changed my thoughts and actions around food, I built new habits. As the pounds came off, my self-esteem skyrocketed. I was on a virtuous cycle to be sure. Both of these efforts altered the course of my life to an extent. Since then I have had my share of ups and downs on both fronts. I am back on the path of healthy living this year because I gained back all the weight I lost and then some. I have had my times when I have been difficult to get along with, and other times when I have been as approachable as anyone I know.

My point in all this is that I know I have the power to change. When I see myself on a path that I don’t like, I know that I have the tools to alter that path. The challenge is to get my head in the right place first, and then to start to work on the attitudes that drive my actions. While I can take initial steps immediately, I know that I will need to have diligent, intentional thoughts and actions to make the new patterns stick.

For this time around on being healthier I just crossed the 12 week mark. I am starting to really feel good about myself both physically and mentally. I am hooked on the exercise and on the idea of eating right. I don’t know for how long I will ride this wave, but I plan to do as much as I can to extend it as far as possible. When I do fall back into the trough, I know what I will need to do to paddle back up the face of the next wave, and continue my success story.

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