Checked Your Belt Lately?

I had to buy a new belt yesterday. Normally, that wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but in this case, it wasn’t to make a fashion statement or even because the old one was just worn out. It broke. As I was putting it on, tugging against one side to embed the waistband of my pants deep into my belly, the largest metal piece of the buckle broke. Guess it had enough.

It was only a matter of time. When you take something that’s only meant to hold your pants up and put enough force on it to lift a railroad car, sooner or later it’ll snap. And that’s about what it takes to keep these pants up. I think maybe the gods are trying to tell me something.

You see, I carry all of my weight in my belly. According to health experts, that’s not a good thing. And because of that, I have two choices – I can wear my pants lower than a teenage boy on date night or wear my belt so tight it cuts off my spleen. Because, once my pants slip down past the middle of my belly, the laws of gravity take over. It’s really embarrassing in church.

So, I combined my trip to Belts R Us and stopped by the gym on the way home. Between lower back issues and that pesky brain surgery, it’s been a few months. And it shows. But I was a good boy and waited till the doc gave me the okay. He said to start easy, which isn’t a problem for me. Truly, I think he’s afraid of all that pressure from my midsection pushing against my brain.

Weight loss is never an easy thing, especially when you get to this age and you’ve been carrying it around for thirty years. I read an article a few years ago that said, once your body builds fat cells, they never go away. You can empty them out, but like politicians and the IRS, they’re always holding their hand out for more.

It doesn’t help that we’ve seen these reality shows where people lose up to 100 pounds in a few months. And it sets a very unrealistic expectation that, if you do things right, rapid weight loss is the natural result. Also, for the duration of the contest, these people spend their lives under the constant supervision of doctors and nutritionists, exercising several hours a day.

Even then, according to a study reported in the New York times, within a couple of years the overwhelming majority of contestants gained back most, if not all, the weight they had lost. In fact, some weighed even more. Care to guess why the show is off the air? Maybe it’s because they didn’t want to face a ten-year reunion show.

I feel for anybody who’s trying to lose weight. It’s hard, and we live in a world that is increasingly detrimental to those of us with the fat gene. First of all, finding a healthy meal, even at home, is getting harder by the day. Go out, and all bets are off. More often than not, one plate of restaurant food contains a whole day’s worth of fat and calories, with little or no nutritional value.

And, to reward us for our weakness, we have clothing stores and the airline industry. Even if you can find a pair of pants big enough, there’s no way you can squeeze them into the coach seat on an airliner. And they won’t upgrade you to first class just because you’re fat. The best they’ll do is hand you a seat belt extension in full view of all the other passengers to humiliate you even more.

Okay, we’ve had some fun here, but the reality is, obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in this country. Beyond broken belts and embarrassing moments, it’s slowly becoming a leading cause of premature death. And we can’t count on corporate America to make it any better. After all, the fatter we are, the more belts they can sell.

We’ve talked before about diets and weight loss, and there are no easy answers. But I believe if you talk to your doctor, get some exercise, and follow a sensible diet that consists of healthy alternatives, it’s not that hard. It’s all about taking in fewer calories, getting optimal value from those calories, and increasing our metabolism through both nutrition and activity.

Many of us will struggle with weight the rest of our lives. But, like any struggle, it’s possible to maintain the upper hand. We just have to be sensible, set realistic goals, and find something we can live with for the long haul. Slow and steady wins the race. Seems I’ve heard that somewhere before.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

Stuck in a Rut? Ribet!

I’d like to begin today’s message with a parable about finding the strength to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. We all find ourselves in situations from time to time that we’d desperately like to change, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t quite there. Until life throws a knuckle ball that we have no choice but to hit.

A frog was hopping down a dirt road, happy as a lark and full of life. After a while, he came upon the sound of a toad crying for help. The toad was stuck at the bottom of a deep rut and couldn’t get out. He’d climbed and jumped all night but kept falling back down to the bottom. His situation seemed hopeless, and there was little the smaller frog could do but go try to find some help.

An hour later, unable to find any way to help his friend, the frog sat beside the road to think. A few minutes later he heard a familiar sound and, to his amazement, along came the toad. “That rut was too deep!” the frog exclaimed. “How on earth did you ever get out?” The toad simply replied, “There was a truck coming … I didn’t have a choice.”

Sometimes, it’s not enough to want something. We can dream about it, plan for it, set goals, and spring into action, only to fall right back to where we started. After a while, we begin to think maybe we just set our goals a little too high. Maybe this is beyond our capabilities. Besides, this rut isn’t so bad after all.

This is true in many areas of life, but especially when it comes to finances. No matter where we are on that mountain, most of us want to climb a little higher. But that takes work, and right now there are just too many other things we need to do. Sound familiar?

More often than not, time really is on our side. The bills are being paid, there’s food on the table, and maybe even a little left over for savings and vacations. What’s the rush? Then the ground begins to vibrate, and you hear an unwelcome sound headed your way, getting louder by the second. Time is no longer a luxury. You have to do something now, or just lay there and await the inevitable.

Thankfully, for most of us, it’s not really a truck headed our way. Sometimes it’s a serious health issue that won’t be covered by insurance. Or maybe you go into work one day to find a box sitting next to your desk as the boss says, “It’s not personal – just business.” Or you get a letter from the bank giving you ten days to pay up or move. But at this point, ten days just isn’t enough.

It all comes down to a pretty simple concept – dig the well before you get thirsty. Things happen that we never planned on, and emergencies have no regard for the size of our bank account. They’ll take it all, and then some. And nobody else cares, as long as they get paid. Your emergencies aren’t their problem. You figure it out.

If you suddenly found yourself in that rut with a truck bearing down, you’d find the strength to get out of the way. We all do. The key is to find that strength now, before you need it, and get out of that rut before the truck ever hits the road. Dig the well before you get thirsty.

Digging a well takes work. It’s not convenient, and a lot of people may even question why, especially when there’s a faucet on your kitchen sink. “You don’t need this! You’re comfortable! Let’s go grab a beer!” But when that day comes that you turn on the faucet and nothing happens, you’ll be glad you put in the effort. And you’ll meet friends you never knew you had, but that’s a different story.

Find that sense of urgency now, before life does it for you. Life will still throw some knuckle balls, and you may already be sitting on two strikes. The question is, will you be ready for it? Will you simply reach into your bank of resources and handle the problem, or let the problem handle you?

If there’s something you could do in the face of an emergency, what are you waiting for? Do it now. Then, when those emergencies arise, you can focus on the real issue instead of the fallout.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

One Degree at a Time

Mark Twain once said everybody always complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. I guess it’s good that we can’t actually do anything about it, because that would just give us all one more thing to fight over. And I’m pretty sure I’d never live long enough to get my turn at the thermostat. If I did, I’d set it to 80 and break it.

My wife and I have a running feud over the inside temperature of our house. Well, it’s more like a disagreement. Okay, it’s a game of cat & mouse. She keeps turning it down, then I sneak down the hallway to turn it back up. We’ve done this several times a day for the past five years. We both think the other won’t notice, or maybe we just hope we’ll get at least an hour or two of relative comfort.

And, are you ready for this? Our difference in the definition of “acceptable” is one degree. One. Singular. You can’t even measure it in degrees, because there’s only one of them. Seriously? In fairness, that’s just the temperature where we’ve agreed not to compromise. She would be happy with five degrees colder, and I’d be happy on a tropical beach.

Now, there’s no way our bodies can tell the difference between 68 and 69 degrees. But that’s where we’ve drawn the line. At this point, it’s more of a moral victory than anything really meaningful. Yet, we play the game. Day after day, year after year. I can’t wait to see what we’ll be like in our eighties.

I guess this is a (somewhat) amusing way of illustrating a more important point. It’s natural to want to live in our comfort zone and, for most of us, stepping outside that comfort zone is a big deal. Even if it’s only by one degree. We know where life feels good, and that’s where we want to stay.

But all too often, what we perceive as our comfort zone really isn’t that comfortable at all. We just live our lives in a state of compromise and acceptance, never really trying to make it any better. Because, in the very act of making it better, we have to abandon what we’ve come to know and take a chance on breaking the thermostat completely.

And, it’s that risk that keeps most of us right where we are. That, and a feeling of relative comfort. Sure, you’d like to make more money, or live in a bigger house, or get a better job, or break away from a toxic relationship. But that means stepping away from what you’ve come to know and into the unknown. It means change, and change isn’t something we always handle very well.

So, we sit right where we are, in a state of relative discomfort, simply because it’s easier than making the changes that would increase our level of comfort. After a while, we even embrace that level of discomfort, because it’s what we know. This is the very reason the vast majority of lottery winners are bankrupt within a few years. The change is just too sudden.

But, here’s the thing. The temperature in our house didn’t suddenly change one day from 75 degrees to 68. It was a slow progression – a trick wives learn in bridal school where they teach them to conquer the household one degree at a time. And husbands, gullible as we are, don’t even notice it until there are icicles on the bathroom mirror. By then, we’ve been had.

The same is true of changes in your life. The big bang approach usually doesn’t work, because it’s too much change too fast. Why do you think all those New Year’s resolutions fail? But if we approach change a little at a time and give ourselves a little time to get used to the change, it adjusts our comfort zone and becomes another normal part of our day.

Your comfort zone is like a rubber band. It can sit there for years, never doing anything besides just existing and getting moved from one place to another. But in order to be of any value at all, it has to be stretched. And, the reality is, someday you’ll stretch it too far and it’ll break. So, you reach into the drawer and get a new one that you can stretch even further.

One degree at a time. It may not fix the ongoing battle over the temperature in our home, but it can make a huge difference in your quality of life if you’ll just let go of that one degree that’s holding you back. You can’t find a new comfort zone by resting comfortably in the one you’ve got. Step outside and explore. You never know what you may find.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

You Won’t Do What???

Have you ever awakened in the morning with a song going through your head – a song you haven’t heard in months or maybe even years, and one you may not even like? Of course, you have. It happens to all of us. We have no idea why that song popped into our head and, try as we might, we can’t shake it until something else comes along to take its place.

If you enjoy any of the music from the early 90s, you’re probably familiar with these lyrics: “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” The song was first recorded in 1993 by Michael Aday, better known to most of us as Meat Loaf, and it reached the #1 spot on the charts in 28 countries.

That’s the song I woke up with this morning, and it’s still playing through my head. Thankfully, this is one I really liked. Yesterday I woke up to Janis Joplin. I’m sure for some of you, that would have been a great way to start the day. I’m pretty sure it was my brain’s way of punishing me for going to bed so late.

So, why am I writing about that this morning? Well, two reasons. First, it’s a vivid reminder of the fact that our brain can retain just about anything for a long, long time, and it can bring it back to the surface when we least expect it. Good things and bad, so be careful what goes in.

But in the context of motivation and success, I think it raises a pretty important point. We all want the best life has to offer, but we tend to draw a lot of lines when it comes time to actually do something about it. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We should have limits, especially when it comes to something that is completely against our values.

Still, that leaves a lot on the table. We all have things we want, dreams that we can describe in vivid detail. And, while we’re in the dream mode, our imagination can become the world’s best add-on salesman. “You want the tour package to go with that? How about a luxury suite? And you wouldn’t want to travel this far in a coach seat … we’re talking first class, right?” And your brain says, “YES!!!”

Okay, so what happens when it’s time to start working toward that dream? That’s when the song starts playing: “I would do anything for (insert your favorite dream here) … but I won’t do THAT.” Really? A moment ago, you were adding options like a kid at the ice cream buffet. No extravagance is too great. After all, you deserve this. You’ve earned it!

“But you mean I actually have to work for it???” The list of options hits the floor and is quickly replaced by an even bigger list of limits. Okay, you’ll work for it. Maybe even a little extra. As long as it’s not too much extra effort, and it doesn’t cut into bowling night. And it can’t be anything that involves sales or talking to strangers. After all, you still have a little pride!

Try something, just for fun. At the top of a sheet of paper, write down one of your biggest dreams. Don’t hold back – let’s go for the gold. Immediately below that, write down all the reasons you want this. Then, draw a line across the page and begin listing all the things you’re not willing to do to get it. You can leave off the illegal and immoral things – you won’t need them.

If you’re being completely honest, you can describe your dream and all the reasons you want it in the top half of the page. But you’ll probably need several sheets of paper to finish the list of things you won’t do to get it. “I would do anything for (top of the page), but I won’t do that (the rest).” It’s a real eye-opener.

In talking with people about their dreams, I find this to be the case more often than not. The “I won’t do that” list can be pretty long and, after a while, even they begin to realize they’re not even describing personal values or hard limits. It’s just a convenient list of excuses. “I could have had that if I wanted it, but I wasn’t willing to do THAT.”

If your dreams are important enough, you’ll find a way. It’s there – you just have to set aside your inhibitions (and maybe even a little pride) and make it happen. Make excuses or make memories. That’s the bottom line. Take an eraser to your “I won’t do that” list and you’ll open a world of possibilities. From there, all you have to do is pick one and let the magic begin.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Dust Off Your Dreams

Monday isn’t a day we tend to celebrate. The weekend is over and, for most of us, it’s back to work. The boss thinks you should be completely rested and ready to hit the ground running. But those of us who have actually met the reality fairy know better. We know that Monday morning is when we suffer the hangover from trying to cram a week’s worth of activity into two days.

On the other hand, the kids are back in school, so there’s that. Sometimes, you have to find the good in any situation. As a parent who raised two teenage girls, I know the feeling well. The only problem is, the teacher gets tired of them before the boss gets tired of us. Why haven’t schools ever learned the concept of overtime?

Monday is also the first day of a whole new week of opportunities. It’s a chance to either pick up where you left off last week in your pursuit of a personal goal, or to begin working on something entirely new. And, regardless of how much rest you actually got over the weekend, your brain is rejuvenated and ready. If only you could get your body to catch up.

Last week, I suggested Monday resolutions. Did you give it a try? How did it go? If you’re like most of us, you did well some days, and spent the rest of the week nursing the bruises from falling off the wagon. That’s okay. Once you get to be my age, the problem isn’t sticking with a resolution. It’s remembering what you decided to do in the first place.

Luckily, God saw that coming and invented something to help us through those times. It’s called paper. Things that are clear in your mind today tend to become a little cloudy over time, especially when they’re not front and center every day. But words on paper never change. The same goes for words on a computer. How many politicians found that out the hard way?

Besides refreshing our memory about exactly what we decided to do, written goals serve as a constant reminder that we’re probably not taking the right steps to achieve that goal. Okay, for some people it’s another box to check off right before they reach around and pat themselves on the back. If you’re one of those, more power to you. The rest of us need a little help.

And, here’s the thing … when you put those goals in writing, don’t hide them in the bottom of a desk drawer where you’ll never see them again. Leave them out, in plain sight, where you’re sure to see them every day. Who cares if somebody else sees it? They may end up giving you the moral support you need to see it through. You know, right after they get up off the floor from laughing.

But, here’s an important thing to remember. If your goals wouldn’t make anybody else at least smile in that “you really are delusional” kind of way, you’re not trying hard enough. It needs to be something a little bigger than tying your shoes each morning. Stretch your imagination. Think big. At least tie them in a double knot.

When we keep our goals front and center, it’s that much harder for life to push them off to the side. Roadblocks become speed bumps or, at the very worst, the beginning of a detour that will eventually put us right back on track. And, along the way, we just might make a few new friends or find something worth coming back to check out.

It’s hard to focus on personal goals when demands of the job kick in, or when you’re in the middle of trying to handle any of life’s other priorities. But, the more you can keep that goal in front of you, the more cemented it becomes in your mind. It’s not there to remind everyone else – it’s there to remind you.

Get some pictures of what you want most and put them up where you can see them several times a day. Put one on the refrigerator. If you’re like me, you’ll see that one at least a couple of times. Put extras anywhere else you spend a fair amount of time.

And, if somebody else sees them, that’s even better. Well, within the constraints of Human Resources policy. Early retirement is a worthy goal, but let’s not force the issue. Still, when people ask about your picture, that’s a chance to reaffirm your goal. “That’s a picture of our next vacation.” Unless they have access to your bank book, they’ll never know the difference.

Goals are like any other priority in life. Unless we keep them dusted off, they can lose their luster really fast. And, much like that prized centerpiece on the living room table, the more prominently you keep it on display, the more likely you are to keep it shined up. So, keep your dreams visible. And be sure to spend a little time admiring them. They are, after all, some of your most prized possessions.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Change is Not a Four-Letter Word

We’re all creatures of habit. Some a little more than others, but we all get into a comfort zone and tend to stay there until something comes along to change that. Those habits could be anything from which side of the bed we sleep on to which shoe we put on first, the route we follow driving to work, and how we spend our first five minutes on the job each day.

Most of our habits are completely inconsequential. Does it matter where you sit in church, or which shoe goes on first? Not a bit. In fact, some experts suggest we should change those habits from time to time, just to break up the monotony.

Beyond that, I think it can help us learn to adapt to change, so the thought of changing a habit isn’t quite so daunting. Because, let’s face it, we tend to make a big production of changing our habits. We make resolutions, set dates, create checklists, and put stars on our daily calendar like a kindergarten teacher to show the days we were “good.”

It’s no wonder we’re so reluctant to change. And if it’s that hard to change something relatively minor, how on earth can we tackle the changes that really matter, things like giving up smoking, losing weight, following an exercise program, or devoting a little time each day to building a business? All of these things can have a profound impact on our lives. And the stronger the impact, the more we resist making the change.

I think two things hold us back. The first is comfort. It’s human nature to seek a place of comfort. And when things are going well, and nothing is forcing us to change, it’s easy to sit back and say, “This isn’t so bad. I’ve done it this way all these years, and I’m still alive. In fact, I kind of enjoy how things are going right now. Why rock the boat?”

That’s great if you want to stay right where you are until the reaper pays a visit. But if you want to step things up a notch, something has to change. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. That’s one of my favorite quotes, and it resonates perfectly in this context.

The first step in making that change is to get a little uncomfortable. If we’re cruising along with little or no discomfort, there’s little incentive to change. We know what we really should do, but the urgency just isn’t there. Until the mortgage company calls and says pay up or pack up. I hope none of you ever have to experience that, but I think we can all agree, it would light a fire.

Beyond that, we need to break these major changes down into smaller bite-size pieces. One of my goals for the year is to finalize my financial situation in preparation for retirement. If you could see my bank and 401k statements today, you’d know that’s a huge undertaking. And, I’ll be honest – looking at the end goal, it’s really hard to visualize.

But, if I break it down into smaller goals – paying down the credit cards, shedding some unnecessary expenses, and building some sources of ongoing income, it becomes a little more realistic. And if I take any one of those goals and break it down even further, I can come up with a list of actionable items that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

It’s all about habits. Form the right habits, and you’ll work toward your goal without really thinking about it. It becomes second-nature. And once that habit is firmly in place, you can start working on the next one. Instead of trying to leap-frog right to your ultimate goal, you do it 21 days at a time.

If there’s something you’d like to change, a habit you’d like to develop (or break), it only takes three weeks. You may or may not reach your big goal by the end of the year, but think of how much closer you’ll be. All it takes it to get a little uncomfortable with the status quo, make a decision to do something about it, then commit to doing that for the next three weeks.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, day after day, and expecting different results. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Embrace change, one little step at a time, and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Dreams for the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It’s hard to believe 2019 is here. My daughter shared a post this morning with a warning from a popular computer retailer 19 years ago, advising us to shut off our computers before midnight. As the world watched in anticipation of all the bad things that could possibly go wrong because of the Y2K issue, the new millennium came in without a hitch.

Throughout history, there have been times when we expected the worst. Religious devotees have predicted the end of the world, right down to the date and hour. Outbreaks of deadly viruses have sparked fears of a global pandemic. The entire Cold War was based on the very realistic threat of a massive nuclear war. And the Y2K issue predicted the simultaneous crash of every computer-driven system on the planet.

Yet here we are, alive and kicking, and launching into a brand-new year. Go figure.

Could any of those things have gone wrong? Absolutely. But they didn’t. And that was largely due to preparation and intervention. On any given day, there are things in our world that can bring us to our knees if we’re not careful. And it’s good to be aware of those potential disasters, so we can do our best to avoid them.

That said, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in these things that we miss the beauty of living. In the movie “Blast from the Past”, a family retreated into their private fallout shelter at the height of the Cuban missile crisis and remained there for the next 35 years. Their son, born in the shelter, had no exposure to anything known of the outside world beyond the year 1962.

Okay, so that’s Hollywood, and it made for an entertaining, though improbable, scenario. But how many people do you know who spend their life hiding from a perceived danger, waiting for the hammer to fall? Some are a lot more afflicted by this mindset than others, literally refusing to leave the house for fear of disaster. Others spend their days out in the world, where they can spread the effects of their pessimism among the rest of us.

It’s difficult to accurately estimate the number of optimists and pessimists in the world, mostly because it’s not something that can be scientifically diagnosed. Hundreds of polls and surveys have been conducted, but let’s be real – how many people would actually describe themselves as a pessimist? But, if you talk to people long enough, you’ll figure out who’s who.

And, make no mistake – a little dose of pessimism can be healthy in a world where things can and do go wrong. We need to be aware of the dangers around us and understand the potential impact. But, like fresh cayenne pepper, a little pessimism goes a long way.

As we begin a new year, it’s important that we look ahead with hope, and the knowledge that we can make a difference in our world. It’s important to identify those things that have been holding us back and do whatever is necessary to overcome them. It’s a time to put the past behind and move forward.

It’s also a time to dust off those dreams and pick one or two for the coming year. Not to dream about, but to accomplish. And, here’s something to think about – if all of your dreams can be accomplished in a single year, you’re not dreaming big enough. Try harder. We should all be working toward at least one goal that will carry us into the following year and beyond.

Take a few moments over the coming days to feed those dreams. Drive through a section of town where property values are on another planet. Go to an open house in a neighborhood where you’d like to live. Visit an RV or boat show. Have a family dream night with the kids. Buy a travel magazine or go to the library and check out a book on your dream destination.

If we only focus on that little part of this planet and this life that fills our own reality, we’ll completely miss all the wonderful things that are waiting to be discovered. We can sit in our own self-imposed fallout shelter for the next 35 years or get out and enjoy what’s right outside that imaginary steel door.

There are people for whom the things we think are beyond reach are part of their everyday reality. They’re no smarter than you are, and they’re no more deserving. They just got there first. Dare to dream. Allow yourself to believe. Then get up off the couch and make it happen. Dreams really do come true, but only if we make them. Let 2019 be your year.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved