Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Tag: magic solution

Magic Bullet 3: Wouldn’t it be cool if managing our money were easy-peasy?

Now I know you know this is just a pipe dream. But, oh, don’t we all really, truly want it to be easy?? Unfortunately, the area of personal finances has to be one of the classic examples of complexity. 

photo of woman agonizing over past due bills

It’s the land-mine sector of our lives fraught with all kinds of emotions which are tangled up in all kinds of bad habits. Combined, these emotions and habits are the causative agents for the maxed-out credit cards, late car payments, loan defaults, and disappointing lack of savings which characterize many Americans’ financial states.

It’s the part of our lives for which we’d most dearly love a magic bullet – one stupendous act that could fix our colossal financial mess – and the one for which NO magic solution exists. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

 Do you also know
that all is not lost?

While we all have a lot of stuff to sort through, it can be done. It IS being done – by thousands. Especially since The Crash of 2008, there’s been the unmistakable sound of collective forehead-smacking across our nation. Thousands of us are saying, “I have got to get a handle on my money. There won’t be any Social Security by the time I retire, and I’m really not cut out to be a bag lady.”

Thousands of people are sitting down by themselves or with spouses (some even with their entire families), and beginning the process of sorting through all the bits and bobs. My unscientific Trend-O-Meter tells me a personal-finance tsunami is growing as more and more people have decided enough is enough, literally. They’ve decided they have:

  • more than enough stuff,
  • more than enough debt,
  • more than enough stress, and
  • more than enough angst over finances.

Thousands of people are figuring it out.

Are you in step with these trendsetters?

Then, after also deciding enough is enough, go though their next steps.

  • Unravel the complex set of EMOTIONS that got you into this mess. Pay attention to why you buy.
  • Unravel the complex set of HABITS that has arisen from your complex set of emotions. Pay attention to your financial habits and start breaking the nasty ones.
  • Unravel the complex set of financial PROBLEMS that have resulted from your complex emotions and your complex habits. Itemize your financial problems. Do the hard thing; find the sources of the bleeding and start applying your own first aid.

Some of these go-getters have decided to forego the daft idea that if they know Uncle Lauren, he can’t possibly know anything useful about managing money. They’ve swallowed their pride, called him, made a coffee date, and are getting help from their family’s in-house financial wizard. Cool. (And I’ll bet, in a fit of familial goodwill, he isn’t even charging his hourly rate.)

Some of these thousands, deciding their families are clueless (and, to be fair, they may well be), have enlisted the expertise of a professional financial counselor to guide them through their complicated financial maze. That decision can come with its own perils, so be careful. Shysters abound. Ask around. And, of course, beware of anyone selling shiny magic bullets. Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area. Really.

Here’s an already vetted,
less risky alternative.

Heard of Dave Ramsey? Talk about someone with street cred for doing it ALL wrong the first time ’round! He started a real estate empire which ended in his personal financial meltdown – a good 25 years before our nation’s 2008 financial meltdown. He paid attention to his mistakes, dug himself and his family out of the hole, and started his Financial Peace University. This thriving business makes money telling others how to deal with their money – the smart way.

Thousands, including yours truly, have decided to take advantage of Ramsey’s learned-the-hard-way expertise. Guess what? People who sign up for Financial Peace soon notice that the words “magic solution” never pass Dave Ramsey’s lips. He does, however, insist on the laborious work of unraveling your financial mess SO THAT you can do something about it.

After my husband and I did the hard work of paying attention to our emotions and habits, we tackled the chore of creating a better financial plan. Fortunately, I’m from a very conservative gene pool where paying interest on anything is regarded as really, really, really bad form. “We don’t pay interest; we earn it.” My husband is also from conservative financial stock.

That bit of hereditary good luck meant we hadn’t gotten ourselves into debt or financial trouble. We went through the process above because we were fairly certain we could do better. And we did.

Though it wasn’t a particularly hard process, it was a lengthy one. But we persevered. Slow and steady wins the race, you know. But you’ve probably heard that before, haven’t you? Hmm, I wonder where? Oh, never mind. What could Uncle Lauren possibly know about fiscal health?

So. Want to get your finances in order?

  • Swallow hard and put on the big-boy pants (or big-girl pants, as the case may be).
  • DECIDE that you are willing to do for yourself what no one else can: get your own financial house in order.
  • Forget the magic bullet myth. Like unicorns, they never existed – never will.

I know you know all this – because you’ve been paying attention. Now make me proud: go do something about it but before you do, check out Bullet #4.)

red box with white text of quote from Dave Ramsey, "There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting out of debt."

(Shortcut = Ramsey-speak for magic bullet)

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett

Magic Bullet 2: Wouldn’t it be cool if maintaining good health were easy?

photo of young women on edge of bed, holding head in hands, and feeling unwel

No magic bullets for health dilemmas

In The Point, I promised to expose myself to a boatload of embarrassment on this blog, in hopes of sparing you some of life’s common problems. This post is chock full of embarrassing info, so pay attention!

Sometime during my forties, I began having several little health problems, all seemingly unrelated. Up until that time, I’d been very healthy, so this new chain of events was irritating, to say the least. (Up till then I’d pretty much stomped my Type-A foot down on that accelerator and zoomed on down the road of life.) 

For years and years, I practiced magic-solution, vacuous thinking.

  • If the chiropractor can make the right adjustments, I’ll feel great.
  • No, wait: if the dentist can just make a few adjustments to my bite pattern, I’ll feel great.
  • If the neurologist will just do whatever it is that neurologists do, I’ll feel great.
  • If I can find the right meds, I’ll feel great.
  • If I can find the right supplements, I’ll feel great.

But the health incidents kept increasing and escalating in severity. My new normal was alarming. In desperation, I fired off the mother of all magic bullets – major sugery. Bad idea: it helped very little.

After surgery, I became unhealthily skinny. I slowed to a quarter of my usual speed. I was depressingly fatigued by the slightest of everyday stressors. All this necessitated a dramatic decrease in my client workload. I saw doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, submitted to test after test, procedure after procedure – with practically no help from any of them. And on and on, until I faced the music: lots of problems all intermingled, no magic bullets to be found.

Now what?

It was time to throw out the magic bullets. It was time for serious research.

The more research I did, the more I learned about my body. That’s when I made the melancholy discovery that I’d definitely not been paying attention to my own body. It was embarrassing what I didn’t know about my body – and didn’t care that I didn’t know – until it no longer worked.

Along the way, I picked up a tidbit that helped this symptom, something else that helped with that symptom. I learned with much disappointment that I’d been living in very unhealthy ways on a number of fronts until one day – voilà. I struck the mother lode – a major piece of information about celiac. Once I adjusted my diet, life improved considerably, just four “short” years after my magic-bullet surgery.

Almost everything I’d learned along the way helped a little bit – and sometimes, though not often, a lot. I began to realize that there were several health problems all playing into each other. As I talked with others who’d gone through similar experiences, guess what? I wasn’t unique! Our health issues are complex because our bodies are complex. Duh.

Most doctors are short on time and short on knowledge of all modalities. They practice either conventional medicine or alternative medicine, but very rarely both. They prefer specialist income to GP income, so they specialize in one narrow field. Not overly concerned with how all the body parts work together, they either know ALL about the skin or ALL about the brain – but not both. (And the specialist to whom you’re referred is not the only sage on stage, just so you know.)

In short, very few docs are looking at the big picture: your body in all its complexity and all its parts. But let’s be fair: no doctor can know all about your daily physical and mental habits – the countless things you do every day that have a slow, steady impact on your health. There isn’t a medical/health questionnaire long enough or thorough enough to give a health professional all of this very necessary information.

Drop brainless magic-bullet thinking.
Adopt these intelligent-thinking concepts.

It’s what I should have been thinking all along – and how I hope you’ll think from this day forward.

  • The person who lives in your complex body is the person responsible for its care and feeding. Even though you’re the one who’s sick, YOU will need to pay meticulous attention to your health issues – because precious few in the medical community will. They’ll be looking for the one problem they can fix with their one magic bullet from their very specialized area of medicine.
  • Ask your close family members or spouse to pay attention to your health. Often, their feedback will be far more objective than yours.
  • Pay attention to The Big Picture and take note of all its little problems that may be interconnected or contributing to the seemingly isolated Big Problem.
  • Pay attention to all of you: your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical states and how they interact.

 And lastly, tattoo this on your brain: firing a magic bullet at a health problem is just folly gone to seed. Dooooon’t do it.

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text of a quote from Quentin Regestein, M.D. about the patient's job of taking charge of his own life.

A respected doc: there’s no magic health bullet

Magic Bullet 1: Wouldn’t it be cool if life were simple?

photo of silver magic bullet

Sleek. Shiny. Silver. And totally ineffective.

You have a problem.
You ask around.
You hear about a magic bullet.
You get one.
You pop it into your six-shooter.
You fire it off.
Bingo-bango: problem solved.

Wouldn’t this be awesome – to know that all you have to do is find one magic bullet for your problem? But you’re an adult, and you know the scenario I’ve just described is a lie.

We all know life is complex. We all know its problems are also complex, resulting from a plethora of causative effects. We all know precious few of our problems are caused by one thing and can be obliterated by one shiny-silver, magic bullet. We ALL know these facts, and yet many of us spend a good portion of our waking hours pretending there is indeed the fairy-tale scenario I described above.

You’ve been paying attention.
So what do you see
as you look around?

Messed-up lives? Crumbling marriages? Self-sabotaged careers? Ruined health? If you’ve been paying attention, you know a ton of bad decisions (and perhaps a small amount of bad luck) created those messes. But rather than sort through the debris and develop a realistic action plan, more likely those people you’ve been observing grasped at one, quick-and-easy answer – the proverbial magic bullet.

  • I’ll go to rehab for a month, and the staff will help me kick my habit.”
  • It’s just stress. We’ll take a vacation to the Bahamas, and that’ll fix our marriage. Or maybe if we had a baby, that would bring us closer together.”
  • My boss needs to realize how talented I am and give me the raise I deserve.”
  • This new diet is the answer I’ve been looking for: it says I don’t even have to exercise because the weight will literally fall off!”

Of course, pay-attention person that you are, you’ve noticed that in all of these not-so-unusual statements, it’s someone or something else who’s being given the clean-up job. And did you notice that the clean-up job is assumed to be relatively simple?

What happens next?

You know what happens because you’ve been paying attention. They shoot off the magic bullet. Then they’re amazed and disgusted when it doesn’t fix the problem. Then they continue making the same mistakes which lead to:

  • more messed-up lives,
  • more crumbling marriages,
  • more sabotaged professions, and
  • more health issues.

What nonsensical,
paradoxical thinking we practice.

We intellectually acknowledge that life is complex and, therefore, its problems must also be complex. Yet we proceed to throw up our hands at life’s problems, jettison all reason, and reach for a magic bullet.

When faced with the apex of a health issue, a financial crisis, or a spouse walking out the door, we look around for one magic solution that will make it all better. We’ve not been paying attention. We’ve not been practicing critical thinking. And now we think if we could pop that one magic bullet into our six-shooter, we could solve our very major, very complex problem.

Why? Why? Why?
WHY do we do this to ourselves?

Know what I think? I think we tell ourselves that it’s just more than our feeble little minds can sort out. But, of course, that is also a lie. We can sort it out. We just have to pay attention AND ask some thorny questions.

  • Am I lazy? Am I not up for the arduous task of unraveling my problem and devising an action plan?
  • Am I undisciplined? Am I unwilling to follow my own action plan, even after I’ve spent considerable time creating it?
  • Am I blaming others? (Often we decide it’s easier to go through the mental-gymnastic rationalization of “_____ did this, so she’d better fix it” than to admit it’s our problem and we need to figure it out.)

Hard questions, aren’t they?

But the sooner we start honestly answering them, the sooner we’ll start the unraveling process of our lives’ stickiest messes. And as you’ve probably noticed, the longer we let the events and people of our lives get tangled up, the more unraveling we have to do.

Just so you know, I still stand by my premise that very ordinary, pay-attention people can live successful lives. In spite of that, though, you’ll never hear me claim that life itself is simple.

No siree. There is no magic solution, no magic bullet (except for the kitchen appliance). There are only complex lives, complex problems, and complex solutions. That’s the bad news. The good news? Though 99 percent of life’s problems are complex, paying attention will help you learn how to resolve them.

Keeping my promise to heap boatloads of embarrassment on myself, I’ll give some examples from my own life in future Magic Bullet posts, and you’ll see what I mean. (By now, my dignity is already shot, so I have nothing to lose.)

red box with white text of Dr. Temple Grandin's quote about there being no magic bullet

Famed lecturer & author of The Autistic Brain

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett

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