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In the #1 national bestseller, Make the Connection, Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey showed millions of readers how to lose weight and keep it off, using a combination of diet and moderate exercise. Now, in Keep the Connection, Bob Greene shows readers how to keep the momentum going by eating right and staying healthy in all aspects of life. With tips for moving to the next level of mental and physical fitness, step-by-step ...
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In the #1 national bestseller, Make the Connection, Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey showed millions of readers how to lose weight and keep it off, using a combination of diet and moderate exercise. Now, in Keep the Connection, Bob Greene shows readers how to keep the momentum going by eating right and staying healthy in all aspects of life. With tips for moving to the next level of mental and physical fitness, step-by-step instructions for specific exercises (including clear photographs that show readers the proper form), and a variety of delicious and nutritious recipes, Keep the Connection will help readers achieve even greater health, fitness, and mental well-being than ever before.
Since the publication of Make the Connection in September 1996, I have had the opportunity to tour the country and speak to thousands of people. After most of these talks, I would spend an hour or two signing books. It became one of my favorite things to do. Once in Duluth, Minnesota, a woman who was waiting near the end of a rather long line asked me, "Do you ever get tired of this?" That had to be the easiest question I'd ever been asked. My answer was an emphatic, "No!" I've always enjoyed answering people's questions about their eating and exercise habits and hearing their personal stories. Quite honestly, I feel like I'm the one who leaves with the most information. I think I learned as much or more in the "signing line" than in all of my years of schooling combined Mostly, I learned about people.
One important fact I discovered is that people, for the most part, known a great deal about eating right and exercising. They basically know what to do to stay healthy. Let's face it—most of us know that we should eat sensibly and get some regular exercise. It's not a news flash anymore! What people really want to know is how to stay motivated to do these things for the rest of their lives. Without a doubt, it's the number one question I am asked, because without motivation, enduring change is impossible.
You could compare the process of change to renovating your house. I you rebuild your house on a shaky foundation, it may eventually crumble. It's the same with making any change in your body or yourhealth. In the case of your body, the foundation represents the way you think. And self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-love are all the elements that go into building your foundation. They are the same building blocks for motivation. If you want to take this analogy further, you could say that the structure and all the internal workings of the house are fortified by your nutrition and exercise; they keep the house strong and running smoothly. But if your foundation is not solid, your motivation to keep healthy will eventually suffer. That's why the first thing we're going to do in this book is shore up your foundation.
In this section, I will look at the reasons why we lose motivation, how to get it back and ways to maintain it. I'm not going to provide you with gimmicks designed to make you feel better about eating healthy and exercising. I'm going to show you how to get to the heart of who and what you are. It is at this level that true motivation flourishes and real transformation occurs. If you don't know who you are or why you make the decisions you do, then changing the way you behave can be an uphill battle.
All too often, people adopting new health habits underestimate how difficult it will be to stay the course. I'm reminded of this each time people show me their before and after pictures. Of course, I'm happy that they worked hard and found success. Still, I can't help but ask myself, "Will they keep it up? Will they beat the odds?" While they are telling their stories, I find myself listening for certain key words that would lead me to believe they will maintain their success.
You may think this is a cynical view for someone in my field. But, sadly, very few people are able to make permanent changes. The, success rate for changing most kinds of behavior is between 5 and 10 percent. Pretty dismal, huh?
Don't worry, we're going to improve those odds. Everything we need to better ourselves—the desire, drive, discipline—we already have. But for many of us, they are buried beneath fear and low self-esteem. That is the reason why changing your body—or anything worthwhile in your life, for that matter—is so difficult. Poor self-esteem puts you at odds with your own well being. So to stay truly motivated, you must continually nurture and elevate your self-esteem. Think of self-esteem and motivation as having a symbiotic relationship. If one suffers, so will the other.
Where are you in this process? Are you ready for change? Talking about it, even reading about it, doesn't make you ready. So what is the difference between people who are successful at changing and those who aren't?
After years of working with clients, traveling around the country and meeting people, I began to notice something quite remarkable. In the course of my conversations with people, certain words kept coming up. It didn't matter what part of the country I was in, the same phrases would be repeated time and time again. It got me thinking about the significance of those words. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that people could be divided into three distinct groups based on these words. And these key words were a good indicator of how successful they would be in their efforts to change. The three groups I noticed were the "Yeah ... buts," the "Whaddya thinks" and the "I loves."
People who continually use the phrase, "Yeah ... but," feel good in letting you know why they can't change. People who are always asking, "Whaddya think?" are still looking for an external solution to their problem. And people who start their sentences with "I love" are more receptive to improving their lives. While you read about each of these groups, see if you recognize yourself in any of them.
Are you a "Yeah ... but"?
Linda came to me wanting to lose 25 pounds and improve her cardiovascular health. She had one question, though. "How do I fit exercise into my busy schedule?" It's the second most common question I'm asked, after how to stay motivated. Here is what the usual dialogue with a "Yeah ... but" sounds like:
"Bob, I really want to lose twenty five pounds, but I don't have the time to fit exercise into my schedule. I have to be at work at eight A.M."
"Well, Linda," I tell her, "if you really want to lose the weight, you're going to have to exercise. And a good workout can take as little as twenty minutes. I'm sure you could free up that much time, especially since you know how much it will improve your health."
"Yeah, I know, but I have a lot to do before I go to work. I have to shower, dress, put on makeup, pack the kids' lunches, get the kids off to school. I would have to get up at six A.M. just to fit everything in."
"That's only twenty or thirty minutes earlier than when you usually wake up. And just look at all the ways it would benefit your life. Come on, you probably hit the snooze alarm three or four times as it is. That's fifteen minutes right there!"
"Okay, you have a point. But I'm not a morning person. The last thing I feel like doing in the morning is exercising."
"If you began exercising in the morning, that would change in about three weeks. You will not only sleep better at night, you'll wake up with more energy. But, if you really don't want to exercise in the morning, what about at lunchtime or in the evening? I'm sure that if you really think about it, you probably could free up some time during the day."
"Yeah, but I'm so tired after work. And lunchtime is out, because there aren't any showers at work."
You get the idea. The key phrase here is "yeah ... but." If Linda had said it once, I would have thought she was a little resistant to change but still quite capable of doing it. I would have given her an "honorary membership" to the "Yeah ... but" club. If she had said it twice, I would have thought it was highly unlikely she could make permanent changes in her life—earning her a "charter membership." But three times?! She is now the official poster child of the "Yeah ... but" club.
You may be thinking that I'm giving up on Linda too easily. Trust me, I've seen many Lindas over the course of 15 years, and she will not find long-term success with her current way of thinking. She is far from permanently changing her life. She's not even willing to make the necessary short-term changes. Forcing Linda to take up a fitness plan at this time would be doing a great disservice to her. It would be setting her up for failure.
Linda needs to spend time reassessing what it is she really wants, how important it is to her, what she is really willing to do to achieve it and whether she is willing to do those things for the rest of her life.
Some years ago, I gave a lecture to a group of health professionals, mostly nurses, exercise physiologists, personal trainers and fitness instructors. I was explaining to them the concept of how some people are just not ready to change their lives. All they really want to do is to talk about changing. Essentially, these people want to visualize themselves having a different life, but when it comes right down to it, they are not ready to do the hard work of achieving that life. They are stuck in the "excuse phase." Or, perhaps they are just venting their guilt about not living a certain way.
In my talk, I suggested that, once these people were identified, they were better off working on themselves mentally and emotionally to identify what it is they really wanted—and what they were willing to do to achieve it—before actually making the difficult changes, such as quitting smoking, taking up exercise or altering their eating habits.
To my surprise, the vast majority of the audience was receptive to my point. However, one young exercise physiologist raised an objection. "It sounds like you're giving up on these people," she said. "I was taught that everyone can change and that we shouldn't ever give up. I thought our role is to give encouragement to everyone. I know that's why I went into this field."
It was exactly the comment I was hoping for. Our role, I explained, is to effect change in the most effective manner we can. To push people too aggressively, when they are really not ready to change, is a true injustice to them. Not only will they most likely meet up with failure, but they may ultimately give up on the only thing that can actually help them. I see this all the time when I meet with clients who have been through too many diet and fitness regimens before they were mentally and emotionally ready. They have literally given up on ever trying to change. Their self-esteem has been so battered that it could take months, even years, before they find the motivation to try again.
We are not giving up on these people. We are sending them back home to do their homework! When I finally surrendered blind idealism, I became much more effective in my work. This is especially true in my personal training career. Before I commit to working with a new client, I have about a two-hour initial consultation with them. During that time, if I get one objection ("Yeah ... but"), a flag goes up. Two or more objections, and I will not work with that client. It may sound brutal, but I've learned that the road to permanent change is tough enough when people appear ready for change. When people place obstacles in front of themselves before even getting started, it's an impossible journey.
Unfortunately, I would say that the majority of people, to some degree, are in the "Yeah ... but" category. We are all good at coming up with excuses, but the "Yeah ... buts" are masters. They are trapped in their own excuses. And, for the most part, they feel a bit of satisfaction every time they give you an excuse that confirms to the world that they simply cannot change their life. Inside the mind of every "Yeah ... but" is someone who would like to live a healthier lifestyle or have the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, but the immediate pleasure and self-validation they get out of defending their current lifestyle is much greater. In effect, they are stuck defending their current way of life.
For some of these people, it's not only difficult but painful to admit that they have made poor choices. It's far easier to defend those choices. And, in many cases, they are not even willing to take responsibility for their choices.
But there is always hope. When people in the "Yeah ... but" category fully understand the consequences of their current lifestyle and are no longer satisfied defending it, they are ready to change. It will happen when they are all out of excuses and are willing to take responsibility for all of their choices.
If you find that you are a "Yeah ... but," or have some of these traits, keep reading. There is a wealth of information and mental exercises that will help prepare you for change.
Are you a "Whaddya think?"
The people in the "Whaddya think?" group are second in size only to the "Yeah ... buts." You can usually recognize them by the use of their opening line; what comes after "Whaddya think?" is as varied as the people in this group are. "Whaddya think?" of ... the Zone diet, the Atkins diet, the cabbage soup diet, the lettuce diet, high protein diets, zero carbohydrate diets, the jelly bean diet, the chocolate diet, the chewing gum diet, liquid-only diets, the "whatever the flavor of the month" diet; the Thigh Master, the Butt Master, the Ab Roller, the Buns of Steel tapes, hand weights, ankle weights, exercise bands, cross-country-ski-trainers, vitamins, chromium picolinate, diet teas, chitosan, Tonalin, Griffonia, 5HTP, fenfluramine, Meridia....
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Obviously, some people ask me "Whaddya think?" simply because they want to know how I feel about a particular topic, or they may want to incorporate something into their normal, healthy fitness routine. I wouldn't call them bona fide "Whaddya thinkers."
More often than not, however, I encounter the card-carrying members of this group, who are pinning their health and fitness hopes and dreams on, say, popping a miracle pill once in the morning. They are looking for something to take the place of hard work and difficult choices. In other words, they are looking for an easy way out.
I was giving this speech in Southern California, and a man got up to ask me a question. Usually, I limit questions to one or two per person. But this man tried to squeeze in a bunch of questions all at once. He started with "What do you think of high protein—low carbohydrate diets?" I answered, and was about to call on someone else, when he said, "What about chromium picolinate?" After I answered that question, he asked, "Well, do you take a multivitamin?" By his fourth question, the audience began to laugh. "Okay, one more," he said. "What do you think about those Ab-Roller machines?" As I was answering him, it dawned on me what he was doing. He wasn't so much looking for an answer to his questions as he was an answer to the hard work of changing his health: He was hoping to find a substitute for eating healthy and exercising.
Probably the funniest "Whaddya thinker" I encountered was a woman in Memphis. I was signing books after a talk and, again, limiting questions to one or two per person. When it came to this woman's turn, she asked her question. About a half hour later, she showed up at the front of the line again. "Oh, did you think of something else you wanted to ask?" I said to her. She replied, "I had this question before, but I didn't want to be rude to the other people waiting." Twenty-five minutes later, she was standing in front of me again, this time asking me what I thought about something else. Then, as I was about to leave, she followed me to the door while asking me still more questions. Although I appreciated her enthusiasm, I could clearly see that she was looking to me, instead of herself, for the answers.
I'm addressing the entire congregation of "Whaddya thinkers" when I say: There is no easy way. Change requires hard work.
You may argue that at least the "Whaddya thinkers" are thinking about change, which puts them one step ahead of a "Yeah ... but." Sure, but it's only a small step ahead. When you pin your hopes on a pill, a diet, a piece of exercise equipment, a supplement or the next miracle, you are avoiding the one thing that can really change your life: You. Even people who strictly rely on this book, me or the advice of anyone else are fooling themselves. They still have to do the hard work. My clients discover this when my work with them is complete. Most of them go through an initial period of separation—some will gain weight—before realizing that they were the ones doing the hard work all along. And, they—not me—always had the power to change their own lives.
Stop looking outside yourself for something to change you. Change first takes place inside. This is true in all aspects of your life.
Karen discovered this when she was downsized from her job. For years, she had complained to her friends, family, anyone who would listen, about how much she hated her job. But Karen believed you should never leave your job until you have a better one. She talked to people in her field and sent out her résumé, but none of the jobs she applied for ever seemed right for her. If only she found the right job, she thought, she could leave the city she hated, get a better social life and feel better about herself. Months dragged into years, and still Karen was miserable because she could not find the perfect job. One day, her boss told her the company was cutting back and they would have to let her go, but not without a very generous severance package.
Karen's first thoughts were that her life was over. But after several weeks of being depressed, Karen began thinking about her old childhood dream of becoming a writer. She had the time and the money to try it now, she thought, so why not? As soon as Karen began pursuing her dream, her life changed. She began feeling better about herself, her friends, even the place she lived. Karen still didn't have the job she thought she needed, but it didn't matter anymore. She had changed. She realized that the things she thought a job would give her, she was actually providing for herself.
It really is the same when it comes to improving your health. When you stop looking for the answer outside yourself, you, as a person, can grow. Change is a journey of self-discovery. It's about increasing your self-esteem and feeling better about yourself. If you keep searching for a miracle diet or pill to make all your problems go away, you won't discover anything about yourself. Nor will you increase your self-esteem. And in the end I guarantee you won't feel any better about yourself. The only miracle is waiting within you. It will be there as long as you're alive, but now is always the best time to take advantage of it.
If you see any traits in yourself that resemble a devout "Whaddya thinker," read on. There is help for you.
Are you an "I love"?
By far, the smallest of the three groups is the "I loves." It's sometimes hard to find an "I love," but it's always a pleasant experience for me. You know you've found one, when their opening line is "I love," followed by just about anything.
"I love".... the way I feel after my workout, the way I try new things now, walking in the rain, a sunset, a sunrise, the way I feel, the way I feel in the morning, the way I feel all day, the way I feel at night, how I look in my clothes, writing in my journal, meditating, picturing myself reaching my goal, yoga, a good night's sleep, the taste of fruit, traveling, to work out to cook, to wear hats, to go fishing, to work in my garden. The list is virtually endless.
Who are these people, anyway? They are the people who are done talking about changing their lives. They are either ready to change their lives, receptive to changing their lives, in the process of changing their lives or have already changed their lives. They are willing to make or have already made the connection. They are typically not making excuses, placing obstacles in front of themselves or looking for miracle cures to change their lives. They are taking control. They are doers!
Right about now you may be saying, "Oh, yeah, right. Somebody says they love to wear hats, and this guy thinks they are capable of doing anything." The point is not whether they love to wear hats or walk in the rain; it's that they love something. People who use the words "I love" to describe something in their life have a much greater short- and long-term success rate when it comes to getting fit and taking care of themselves.
Here's my theory: When you use the words "I love," you're saying that you feel passionately about something. Passion is the strongest fuel for motivation. Lose passion, and motivation will soon follow. So, at the very least, these people are able to express a seed of passion. This is always a very good sign of future success.
Secondly, people who start a sentence with the words "I love" also appear to have a somewhat positive attitude toward life. An optimist or a glass-half-full kind of person, you might say. A positive attitude is also a powerful predictor of long-term success. In fact, passion and a positive attitude can take you anywhere.
Cecelia has certainly come a long way from where she started. When I first met her, she explained to me that she had gained 65 pounds after a very depressing time in her life, which had culminated in her trying to take her own life. During the first month we worked together, Cecelia had very little enthusiasm or passion for anything in her life. I knew that as long as she remained that way, she would have trouble losing the weight. Sure enough, she had had many setbacks. But her drive and determination saved her. When she returned to her hometown, I found her another trainer, and she continued her workouts. Over the next year, Cecelia and I kept in touch, and I could tell from our conversations that she was changing. Her voice sounded lighter. She laughed more. She was more joyful. Now, Cecelia uses the words "I love" all the time. "I love my dogs," she says. "I love my workouts. And when I don't work out, I feel like I'm missing something. I really love my life."
This remarkable change occurred when Cecelia created a positive cycle in her life through her hard work and determination. This, in turn, made her feel better about herself and her life. To feel good about your life today and where it's going tomorrow is what it's all about.
This is no easy task, especially since we live in a rather cynical time, where feelings of resignation or indifference are all too common. It is much harder to remain positive about yourself and your life. But I believe deep down that everyone wants to be an "I love." That is how we came into the world, but many of us have strayed so far away from it that we have forgotten how to be one.
So how do you acquire passion and a positive attitude? By choosing them. They are choices that you make. So is being motivated. So is everything.
The power of choice
People who create and maintain positive changes in their lives have certain things in common. For one, they invariably have what I call a strong emotional foundation. And the backbone of a strong emotional foundation is self-esteem.
How do we get self-esteem? Are we born with it? Is it something we can acquire? The truth is, self-esteem is acquired early on in our lives, but it requires constant effort on our part if we are to improve and sustain it throughout our lives. The reason self-esteem is so significant is because it's an essential ingredient to effecting change in our lives.
We have the ability to either strengthen or weaken our self-esteem by the choices we make. This is a crucial point. Good choices lead to positive self-esteem, which in turn creates an environment for more good choices. Poor choices lead to negative self-esteem, which in turn creates an environment for more poor choices. In this way, we can create momentum, in either a positive or negative direction, by the choices we make.
Let's use the analogy of a snowball. The more snow you roll it in, the larger it gets. It's the same with self-esteem. The more good choices you pack on, the more positive your self-esteem becomes. And you will want to continue looking for ways to keep the momentum going.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Have you ever had a bad day, where you woke up and didn't feel like exercising? You skipped breakfast, so that by the time lunch came, you ate too much. Then, because you felt bad for overeating, you bought yourself a jelly doughnut for a snack. By the time dinner rolled around, you'd completely given up on yourself, so you ordered a pizza and ate the whole thing, along with a bag of chips, while watching your favorite TV show. The next morning you wake up feeling sorry for yourself and again decide to skip your workout.
I would bet we have all done something similar. That's because when you make bad choices, it's easy to beat yourself up and say to heck with trying to improve. You pack on more bad choices, and pretty soon you've created momentum for negative self-esteem. It can take years to undo this damage. That is why I believe self-improvement should only be undertaken when the person is ready.
It's important to understand how the choices you make affect your life. You are, in essence, what you choose. We don't always realize it, but we are constantly making choices. Life is made up of millions of choices made in every moment of every day of every year in your life. That is how you create who you are-by the choices you make. Look in the mirror. Take a good look at yourself, and understand that you have created this person through all of your decisions throughout your lifetime.
So many people think that to lose weight and get fit, they simply have to alter their choices on diet and exercise. They do. But they also have to take a good, honest look at themselves. And that is probably the most difficult thing to do. You must be willing to look inside yourself to see what needs changing. Then you have to find the strength within to change permanently. In many cases, doing this involves admitting that you have made poor choices in your life. For many of you, this will be a painful admission. It's painful but necessary!
Embracing this concept is essential to accomplishing what you want and, more importantly, keeping what you want. It's a crucial element in the new foundation you're building. As you read on, keep in mind that you create yourself. You create yourself through choice.
To understand how, you need to know more about the nature of choices you make in your life.
Making conscious choices
We should always strive to make conscious choices. But because we get in the habit of making certain choices or we are too lazy to think them through, our choices become merely reactions—both automatic and impulsive. Each time the employee is late to work, the boss yells. Every time the little boy falls, his mother comes running. Whenever the woman feels sad, she eats something sweet. If you always react to something the same way, it's a good sign that you need to step back and think before making a choice. You can develop the habit of doing this by practicing what I call the ten-second delay.
The point is not so much to take exactly ten seconds as it is to delay your choice long enough for you to make it conscious. We often make choices in what seems like a split second. I'm asking you to just draw that out a little bit, so that you think before you act. You may find that you make a different choice. But even if you make the same one, you will be more conscious of it.
When it comes to improving your health, there are certain critical moments where the ten-second delay is most valuable. The first is when you get up in the morning and decide whether or not to exercise. Some of you may have already developed the habit of exercising in the morning, because it simply makes you feel better. For you the choice is easy—exercise! Yet others will look at a rainy day or a bad night's sleep as an excuse not to exercise. It's important for them to understand that they made the choice not to exercise. It helps if you tell yourself when you wake up, "I am making the choice to exercise." And if you decide to skip your workout that day, you should tell yourself, "I am making the choice not to exercise." That way you will know that it is up to you.
The same goes for every time you open the refrigerator door or kitchen cabinets to get something to eat. This is another critical moment. If you give yourself a ten-second delay before choosing something to eat, you may not eat it. And even if you do eat it, you will know that it was your choice. A good question to ask yourself while you delay your decision is, "How will I feel afterward?" If you choose to eat a slice of pie, tell yourself what the benefit will be. And if you choose to leave the pie in the refrigerator, tell yourself what benefit that will be. This is a good way to understand the consequences of your choices.
The third critical moment occurs in the supermarket, when you are deciding what should go in your cart. Have you ever returned home, unpacked your groceries and wondered how certain items ended up in the bag? Many times, we go to the supermarket and our minds are somewhere else. Or we go there hungry and let our stomachs do the choosing. The ten-second delay is really an exercise in mindfulness. It forces you to come back to the moment where you are and to think about what you are doing. It can be a tremendous help to you at the supermarket. When you don't allow certain items in your cart, they'll never end up in your home. It's also good to ask yourself why you are buying something. And don't fool yourself into thinking that you're getting it for your partner, spouse or children. If it doesn't fit in with your overall health plan, chances are it won't fit in with theirs, either.
Fear and love: the essence of choice
Entire books have been devoted to what I'm about to condense down to a few paragraphs. For further reading on this and related topics, I recommend the books A Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukov.
The main point I want you to understand is that choices are made with the intention of expressing either love or fear. In many cases, we are often unaware of our intentions. That's the first thing we have to change. We have to become more conscious of our choices. I believe if we examined every decision we made, we would be able to determine whether we were driven by fear or love.
Fear is both a gift and a curse. It is essential for our survival. It can protect us and get us out of harm's way. Fear was meant to be primarily a reaction, but it can also be a choice. We are the ones who choose it. Again, we do it out of self-protection. But in some cases, we use it to justify our actions. Or to keep us from feeling pain. Or to distract us from the hard work of change. Or to protect us from the painful thought that we made a mistake and are, therefore, a "bad" person. In essence, we have taken the basic instinct of fear and evolved it into a higher "skill."
There are so many reasons why we use fear to steer our decisions, but the result is always the same: Fear holds us back. And when it comes to realizing our dreams and passions, fear can be a detriment. At the very least, it can delay our dreams. At its worst, it can prevent them from ever materializing.
For some of us, that is exactly what we want, though we may not have admitted it to ourselves. Dreams take hard work. And hard work means constant effort, and constant effort might mean discomfort, pain or, worse, failure. We must protect ourselves from pain, right? So we choose fear. Do you see the cycle?
Remember Karen, who lost her job when her company made cutbacks? She had been making choices out of fear. The reason she stayed at a job she hated for so long was because she was afraid of the alternative. By continuing to search for the perfect job, she could distract herself from having to pursue her true desire: to become a writer.
Perhaps you recognize how you've used fear to make a decision that has held you back. You may wish you could rewrite the past. You can't. But you can make a decision now to move toward love and caring for yourself. After Karen lost her job, she could have continued living her life in fear. Instead, she chose to follow something that she loved, and, in doing so, she began making more choices out of love.
Fortunately for us, we were also given the gift of love. Like fear, love can be a reaction or a choice. But a life lived primarily out of love involves effort—much more effort than one lived out of fear. A fearful life is easy. You simply dodge and hide. To live a life of love, you have to be willing to give up fear. That can be a monumental decision. It could mean making huge changes in your life. It could mean giving up your comfort zone and taking some risks. It could involve constant effort.
Have you ever noticed that the people who constantly take risks and live outside their comfort zone tend to have high self-esteem? There is no question that the two are related. While people with low self-esteem appear to be almost manipulated by their fear, people with high self-esteem are more likely to set aside their fear and, more often than not, make choices out of love.
Steve, a guy I met during one of my talks, is doing this now. When I first met him three years ago, however, he was suffering from anorexia nervosa and had to leave law school because of it. Eating disorders are tremendously difficult to overcome. Most of the behavior is driven by fear. To conquer such an affliction, love and caring for oneself must win out over fear. Through reading Make the Connection, Steve said he was able to "get a grip" on himself and "realize that there was more to life than dieting." He raised his self-esteem to a level where he began eating better and exercising more reasonably. He returned to school. Now he has a normal body weight and just passed his bar exam. "My future is now wide open," he says.
I like the analogy of life being like a long road with lots of twists and turns. Every so often you reach a fork in the road. Each fork represents a choice. You can choose to follow a path of fear or one of love. If you choose the one leading toward fear, you will need to expend more time and effort to get back to the original fork in the road. This, in itself, is great motivation for choosing the path of love.
Once you put love at the center of your decisions, you are in for a life of constant effort and elevation, constant discipline and evolution—the life we are supposed to live. It's not an easy life, but it's a rewarding one. And the reward is not pain, as is commonly thought. It's joy! A life lived out of love is a life filled with joy.
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