I’m in the checkout line buying groceries. As usual, I glanced at the magazine headlines for a casual check of what’s going on. But all I saw were headlines screaming at me:

“Get Thin in Three Weeks!”
“Firm up-fast with Hollywood’s Top Personal Trainer!”
“Organize Everything Better!”

Check out counter

Now, I had nothing against improving myself. I actually wanted to lose a few pounds. Okay, more than a few. And I wanted to eat healthier, and exercise more, and get a little more organization in my life. But these headlines made me feel depressed, not motivated. No wonder they talk about the January blahs. It isn’t the weather: it’s the pressure to be something we aren’t.

I don’t need to begin the year by being accused of being overweight, out-of-shape, disorganized, and whatever else some magazine editor thinks is wrong with me. (In fact, I was so depressed I thought about buying one of those chocolate bars they keep right next to the magazines!)

Did they really expect me to believe some magazine article was going to help me get thin in three weeks? I mean, how thin can you get in three weeks? (I’ve heard of people who fasted that long, but I don’t think fasting is recommended as a diet plan.)

Let’s get real. Sure, I know I’m not perfect, but there are certain things I’ve discovered over the years about how to motivate myself to change.

  • I need to be encouraged, not yelled at. I need to affirm what’s good about me. Just as I know I’m not perfect, I also know I have a lot more positive qualities than I do negative. Why is it that headlines rarely say, “Become an Even Better You!”, “Be a Kinder, More Patient Person in Three Weeks!”, “10 Tips for Encouraging Each Other!”, “Overcoming Stress by Liking Yourself As You Already Are”?
  • I can’t handle too many goals at one time. Often, one is all I can manage, depending on how much time and energy it takes. So I know I have to pick just one or two things to work on.
  • Whatever I want to do has to be important enough to me to make me keep trying even though it’s difficult. It has to be something I want badly enough to make a sacrifice or two.
  • I need to set a reasonable goal (not getting thin in three weeks). It has to be something I have control over and can break into small steps that I can actually work into my life.
  • I have to allow myself to blow it without thinking I’m a terrible person or giving up. In other words, I have to keep plodding along no matter what. If I blow it, I’ll be annoyed with myself, but I won’t feel I’m an awful person. And I won’t just give up.

reading magazineI did have a goal that year. I’d recently learned I was on the verge of having osteoporosis. Not something I needed to hear! I had already been walking on my treadmill three days a week. So I knew I needed to walk every day if possible, and ramp up the intensity. I also needed to add more exercises to strengthen my back and the rest of me. I knew I needed to change my lifestyle to force myself to pay attention to my exercise time.

Right now, I’m trying to walk and exercise right after I get up in the morning. Otherwise, it’s too hard to break off what I’m doing. Then I will do short, low-intensity 10 or 20 minute walks just before lunch and supper to keep myself moving.

My hope is that in another month or two I’ll be in a routine where I don’t have to make time to exercise, but will do it automatically. Then I’ll set a new goal—or perhaps a new step towards my ultimate goal—getting in shape so I can keep up with my grandchildren!

And now when I’m in a checkout line, I ignore those magazines that blare at me. Instead of reading their covers, I think about titles for positive articles I’d like to read. Maybe I’ll even write one.


Note: This post was first published in my column in the Markham Economist & Sun. It’s included in my small book, Basketballs in the Living Room and Other Facts of Life.

January 11, 2007

About the author 

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

  • I hope you do write some of those positive articles Nancy. That’s a trend worth starting and I would love to read them. I think they’d be a great fit with Oprah’s magazine. O seems to have more articles that appeal to the intellect and heart than the average magazine.

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