From time to time I’ll try to share with you some lessons I’ve learned—the hard way. Like all of you I’ve had my own struggles in life—who hasn’t? There is no substitute for experience but sometimes you don’t have to make all the mistakes to learn from them. We’re better off if we can learn from other people’s mistakes.
I’ve been a pilot for almost 30 years and I try to read as many accident reports as possible. I’d rather learn what got someone else into an accident that get into one myself. This is a good example of profiting from the errors of others.
In this issue I would like to address a common mistake me make—repeating our mistakes with the naïve hope that we’ll get a different outcome.
Today’s Lesson: “If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always gotten!” – Anthony Robbins
Let’s face it, we’ve all been here. Think about it. We hope to lose weight but don’t change anything—we eat the same, we don’t change our exercise routine and yet we’re surprised that the weight keeps piling on. I recently spoke with a 17 year old girl who stood 5’10” and weighed 300 lbs. I suggested that she strongly consider gastric bypass surgery. She was a lovely and mature young woman but was stunned when I suggested that she consider some form of bariatric surgery— gastric stapling or gastric banding. She’s been a patient for several years and has gained 10-20 lbs a year in each of the past few years. Every year she makes a New Year’s resolution to exercise more and eat less and yet the weight gain continues. In reality she may change her habits for a week or so in January and then she’s back to whatever conditions that led her to become obese in the first place. Believing that doing the same thing will get you different results is the very definition of insanity.
While most of us aren’t 150 pounds overweight there’s an important life lesson here that most of us could benefit from. Whether it’s a relationship issue, a problem with a boss, an employee, our children or our finances none of these problems get any better using the same old strategy.
Let’s face it, once we’re past 30 years old most of us can identify our problems; we spend more than we make, we skip breakfast and snack on chips and other junk foods and we can’t control our temper when dealing with our children or spouse. Some of drink too much or depend too heavily on prescription and non- prescription drugs. Whatever the issue the longer we practice a behavior the harder it is to break it.
I remember a woman in her mid-thirties—attractive, professional and charming. To an outsider it would seem that she’d have no difficulty finding a suitable mate and ending up in a healthy long-term relationship. Yet, she collected a string of “losers” – relationships that would last 6 to 18 months and then vanish. One day I asked her what she was looking for in a man. She wanted someone that could be a life-long partner, a good provider, a father to her children and a soul-mate. It seemed reasonable, given her own qualities.
I asked her how long she typically dated men before having sex with them—“two or three dates,” she replied. Well that was at least one problem. She was sending the wrong signal. The average man would interpret having sex during the first few weeks of dating as a “casual” relationship. A “serious” woman—someone interested in a long-term relationship will usually set firmer boundaries meant to send a different “signal.” There are a variety of other reasons that men will read other negative qualities into a relationship with a woman that introduces sex early into their relationship—despite the fact that these same men keep trying!
I suggested that let her suitors know from the very start that she wouldn’t consider sex in the first 2-3 months of relationship—sufficient time to start to get to know one another. She thought this was insane—“you know this is the 21st century, not the 1960s,” was her answer. Of course, I played the role of the doddering old-fashioned pre-senile physician but asked her to try anyway. It was clear that what she was doing up to that point wasn’t working so I challenged her to try something new—she did and got engaged earlier this year! It wasn’t that she was meeting the wrong men but the message she was sending to them by having sex early in a relationship wasn’t consistent with someone who was serious about a long term relationship. When she sent a different message she got a different response.
This little axiom can work in any part of your life. If screaming at your children and threatening to put them in “time out” doesn’t seem to get you the results you’re looking for maybe it’s time to try something else. Whatever the issue, using past failed solutions, isn’t likely to succeed.
When you’re trying to figure out how to change your life try to answer the following questions:
Does it need to be changed?
For instance, if you’re a 2 pack per day smoker and 35 years old it goes without saying that you need to change this addictive habit.
If you develop unexplained chest pain you want to seek help to determine what it’s caused by and then figure out if it needs to be changed. If your chest pain is caused by coronary artery disease the answer is an unqualified yes!
When do I need to change it?
If you and your partner seem to be fighting all the time and the joy is going out of your relationship the answer is soon. Relationships can bear only so much and no one wants to live in a constant state of misery.
What are the things I have control over?
If the issue is smoking the issues you control are whether or not you call the NYS Quit Line, make an appointment with your provider, read about smoking cessation on line, set a “quit date,” determine what medications you might try and what your smoking “triggers” are. You might even talk to your partner about quitting together and making one another “accountable.” If you’re not sure what the strategies are for quitting then learning those strategies is something you have control over.
If your marriage is failing you need to ask yourself whether you want to save it. Why do you want to save it? Are those reasons healthy ones? Are you willing to go to counseling? Are you willing to talk to your partner about getting into counseling? Are you willing to take the initiative and make things happen? You can only control so much but don’t underestimate the power that you exert.
What if I don’t succeed; what then?
If change were easy most of us would lead the kinds of lives we only dream of. The fact is that change isn’t easy. You need a plan for when things start to go sour—for when you revert to old habits.
If you find yourself smoking again, drinking again or using drugs again what are you going to do differently this time? Who will you turn to for encouragement? Do you need to change the “crowd” you hang out with?
If your husband doesn’t call when he’s running late at the office how are you going to convey to him that this is unacceptable behavior? How are you going to let him know that he owes you the courtesy of a phone call? Is there a way of conveying your message without throwing a heavy metal object across the room when he finally does arrive? On the other hand what are you going to do so that he understands you’re serious without the need for a 911 call?
What if I do succeed? How do I make sure the change lasts?
It takes months to form a new habit and only moments to revert to an old one. Try an experiment on your own. Sit in a chair and fold your hands in your lap. Now notice which thumb is on top—the right or the left one. Now take a few seconds and fold your hands so that the opposite thumb is on top. This means that your entire “fold” must be undone to be certain that your fingers alternate—one from the right hand, one from the left hand and so on. It’s not easy to do-–at least not at first. But if you practice this for 3-4 months it’ll become second nature to you. The point is that real change must be practiced and reinforced. In a sense you need to wear a new “groove” into this well-worn record.
For laughs: Proceed only if You Have a Good Sense of Humor
A number of years ago Duramed Pharmaceuticals marketed a birth control pill that was designed to give you 4 menstrual periods a year—Seasonale. More recently they developed a pill called Seasonique that also produces 4 menstrual periods a year. These pills are excellent and whether or not you take them—or any birth control pill—is up to you.
Now to the point. About a year ago I was watching Saturday Night Live with my wife when they ran this “commercial” – allegedly for a birth control pill that produced only one period a year. If you have a slightly twisted sense of humor you’ll love this.
For The Men In Your Life
NINE WORDS WOMEN USE
- Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
- Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.
- Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.
- Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don’t Do It!
- Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)
- That’s Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That’s okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
- Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you’re welcome. (I want to add in a clause here – This is true, unless she says ‘Thanks a lot’ – that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say ‘you’re welcome’. That will bring on a ‘whatever’).
- Whatever: Is a woman’s way of saying F– YOU!
- Don’t worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking ‘What’s wrong?’ For the woman’s response refer to # 3.