Four Decisions: Self Improvement Plan

What is stopping you from being happy?

What is stopping you from being happy?

Introduction:

This post is another contribution to my four part series I have titled The Four Decisions Theory. In a previous blog post, I have described how there are four major decisions in life that create the foundation of who and where we are. These choices play a critical role in not only where we are presently, but also the direction of our future paths.

By using hindsight to reflect upon these choices, it is easier to see what went right and what went wrong. It is very important for everyone to take time and reflect on their own major life events in order to recognize similar opportunities as they arise, or to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Self Improvement Plan of 2009

As I was lying under a beach umbrella in Maui in the summer of 2009, many thoughts began crossing my mind. As a school teacher with only three more weeks of summer vacation left, I was greatly dreading going back to work.

I wasn’t a happy person at this time in my life, and even with the trade winds blowing the sand off my toes, my negative thoughts riddled my emotions. At this moment I did a mental check of my feelings, I was able to look at my own emotions from an outside perspective. These observations were not good. How could I be so negative and depressed in Maui, my favorite place to be in the entire world? Were things really this bad?

The main emotion that angered me was the feeling of being stuck in life. I was in a failing marriage, extremely overweight, and I was not satisfied with my career. Year after year I was watching my friends and family make progress in their lives, but I felt as if I wasn’t going anywhere, and this lack of accomplishment was making me depressed.

The next day I returned to Reno from Maui, and stepped on the scale to find that I had reached the heaviest weight I had ever been, 335 pounds. I had half-heartedly attempted diets in the past, but never put the effort needed to see any success. Once again I was drowning in self-defeating and negative thoughts, and saw no end in sight to my misery.

It was at this moment I looked to past successes in my life and felt a renewed confidence. I was able to go to college and be successful on my own, and I realized that whenever I have put my mind to goals in the past, I was successful. I realized that my problem was that I had no plan to be successful, that I wasn’t really trying my hardest, and the reason I was miserable was because of my own apathy.

It was at this moment that I came up with my Self-Improvement Plan. I began to list the areas of my life in which I was miserable, and came up with a plan to fix it. My first goal was to find a way to get healthy, and be in better shape. I realized that I was an emotional eater, and that I needed to work on my fitness in order to improve my self-esteem.

Weight Loss:

Realizing that I needed to lose close to 100 pounds or more, I needed to take this goal seriously, and consider all options. Working out by myself wasn’t going to work. I needed someone to hold me accountable, and help me through this endeavor. I attended a weight-loss surgery seminar, and decided that I would be a good candidate for a lap-band. In order to get the lap-band, I had to meet with a nutritionist for 12 weeks to show my dedication to weight loss. She helped me by also counseling me through my emotional eating patterns, and giving me positive support along the way. Prior to my weight loss surgery, I had lost 40 pounds on my own, and found the energy and confidence that was missing in my life.

Me in 2009 :(

Me in 2009 😦

Career:

I love being a teacher, but it has begun to wear me down over the past 7 years. I was frustrated at the stagnation in my career, having maxed out my pay cycle with 25 years to go, and getting little input into the curriculum and pedagogy strategies that were being forced down our throats. Every night I was working 10 or more hours with little appreciation for my principal or parents, and I had had enough. I came up with the idea of getting my MBA after my weight loss surgery.

Even though I knew I wanted to change my career, I felt that putting all of my effort to each goal individually would help me to be more successful. Once I got control of my health and fitness, I began studying for the GMAT, and was accepted into the MBA program at the University of Nevada. By surrounding myself with talented and ambitious individuals in my MBA program, I feel like I am a talented individual gain, not “just at teacher,” and I am excited about my future professional career.

Teachers can only do so much. #badparenting

Teachers can only do so much. #badparenting

Marital Awakening:

During this improvement plan, I was also beginning to realize how troubled my first marriage truly was. Instead of ignoring this issue, I was able to see the future of my ex-wife and my own, were drifting in different directions. We began going to marital counseling, and after many months, we realized that we were at an impasse, and no compromises could be reached. My ex-wife is a wonderful person, and out of respect to her, I do not wish to divulge any more details. After realizing my ex-wife and I both wanted different things in life, we decided that a divorce was best for both parties.

It was a very difficult time for me, but I was very fortunate to find the love of my life soon after I divorced. As the old saying goes, “you’ll never find right person in your life until you let go of the wrong person.”

What I Learned

It was the series of choices in my Improvement Plan that allowed me to realize that we are never truly “stuck” in life. Most of the obstacles we feel surround us are entirely mental. Think of the biggest goal you had in your life, or even in your youth? What stopped you from going after it? Was someone physically standing in your way, or did your own fear make your dreams seem unattainable?
Life is too short to not be happy, and if you want things bad enough, you CAN and WILL achieve it. The hardest part is getting started.

As the old saying goes. . . .

As the old saying goes. . . .

Photo Credit 1
Photo Credit 2: Self Photo 2009
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Photo Credit 4

Everything to Everyone

Saying no

When it comes to being an effective leader I think it is very important to realize your limitations, and avoid overextending yourself. When I first became a teacher I tried to participate, lead, and be involved with everything I could get my hands on. I was constantly overextending myself to the point where I could no longer fulfill all of the obligations I had signed myself up for. I offered to go to my students’ after school sporting events, help with a tutoring program, and worked with several leadership committees at my school.

5 Tips to Avoid Overextending Yourself

I instantly had a difficult time keeping up with all of the tasks I volunteered for. I became drained, and struggled to find energy to keep up with it all. I called this “zombie mode,” as I dragged my drained and tattered self from meeting to meeting. I never had the time or energy to put my full effort into these commitments, and I began to get frustrated at my own weakened contributions.

I tried to make everyone around me happy, but I became rather flakey as I continued to ice-skating uphill in order to fulfill my promises. I kept saying yes to everything, desiring to be a great team player, leader, and helper to everyone around me. I became frustrated and annoyed at myself for constantly letting people down, and for always overfilling my plate.

There is something very powerful about having the ability to tell people “no,” and it took me a few years to master this skill. Realizing your own capabilities and not overextending yourself is a difficult task to adjust to. At first I constantly felt that I was letting people down, but I soon realized that I was making myself more productive and efficient.

Five Ways to Say “No” at Work

Rather than spreading myself so thin and diluting my efforts to minimal levels, I was now able to give my full concentration to the most important activities and tasks. Instead of just being a warm body in the room, people began appreciating the genuine efforts I was now able to give with this lightened schedule. I may no longer have been available to these help-seekers for every job, but they were happy to know that when I did sign up for something, I would make a great impact.

Instead of running ragged from one commitment to the next, I was now finding myself with extra time in which I could spontaneously help others or volunteer for things in these random moments of unplanned space. If for some reason the obligations I signed up for took longer than expected, I now had the flexibility to give more time to them without the added stress of other pressing commitments.

Although I have been working on this skill long before I ever learned anything about mindfulness, my meditations have reaffirmed and strengthened my ability to focus on the tasks and jobs that are most important. Mindfulness meditations have provided a time every day in which I can prioritize my thoughts and actions, and get the most from every minute of my schedule.

I am now a better team member, leader, and coworker. They now know that when I commit to something they will get my full, undistracted effort, and it has helped to build a stronger bond with the people around me.

Is it better to try to be everything to everyone? Or would you rather give your all to what you can? Dare to say “no,” now and then, and find out.

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