[Disclaimer: although I AM Dr. Clue, I must confess I am not a medical doctor. As a result, please consult with your physician before attempting to follow any of the advice I put forth below about exercise and diet. The opinions expressed are those of an ordinary guy, much like many of you, who found a system for getting off the couch and making some pretty significant changes in his life. ]
So, what is a “couch potato”?
Apparently the term is one of the very few slang words or phrases whose coining is impossible to trace. Clearly it emerged into public consciousness in 1983 with the publication of a popular book called “The Official Couch Potato Handbook”. For our purposes, let’s just try this definition: a couch potato is a lumpy, inert, starchy, vegetative object covered with eyes –
all of them pointed at the television.
In my last article, I talked about boosting one’s emotional intelligence. To do this, you need to concentrate on three specific disciplines:
- Managing/Controlling Your Emotions
Let’s break these categories down a bit further.
Awareness of Emotions: Have you ever asked a teenager, “What are you feeling right now?” only to have him respond, “I dunno”. Unless that kid is remarkably ahead of the self-awareness curve, he probably possesses a relatively low level of emotional intelligence. Not that this would be surprising, of course: most teenagers, in general, are struggling simply to understand themselves and the world around them. But what about adults? What’s our excuse? Alas, many “grown ups” are little more than teenagers in grown-up clothing.
How many times have you been sitting at a café or restaurant and overhead a couple at the next table in deep, intimate discussion about their relationship? It’s not that uncommon, right? Couples have disagreements sometimes – it’s natural. Why not in a café – a nice, safe, neutral environment? The question, I think, isn’t IF a couple will have differences, or even WHEN – the real question is HOW they go about doing it.
In spite of anything you’ve heard to the contrary, you ARE a “leader” in your “organization”. There’s just no denying it.
“But wait just a second,” you say. “I’m only an admin…or a mid-level manager…or a soccer mom. I’m no leader.”
This is an understandable reaction, to be sure – and yet completely inaccurate. Leadership is much more than the title you hold or the position you maintain in the company pecking order. Leadership, in fact, is how you interact with everyone, including yourself.
Yoda: Luke! You must complete the training.
Luke Skywalker: I can’t keep the vision out of my head. They’re my friends. I’ve gotta help them.
Yoda: You must not go!
Luke: And sacrifice Han and Leia?
Yoda: If you honor what they fight for, yes!
Obi-Wan: If you choose to face Vader, you will do it alone. I cannot interfere.
Luke: I understand. R2, fire up the converters.
Obi-Wan: Luke. Don’t give in to hate. That leads to the Dark Side.
Yoda: Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.
Luke: I will and I’ll return. I promise. [flies off with X-Wing]
Do you remember this scene from the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back? (1980) The young Luke Skywalker finds himself at a crossroads, faced with the hero’s eternal dilemma: stay and complete his training, or rush off (before his education is complete) to try and save his friends. As you can see above, Luke chooses to leave Master Yoda’s tutelage well before fully mastering his Jedi skills, hurrying off to battle with Darth Vader before he’s actually up to the challenge. As a result, let’s just say that Luke has his lunch (and his hand) handed to him on a platter.
Although we have no Death Stars to destroy back here on planet Earth, no black-clad, heavy-breathing villains to vanquish, we nevertheless find ourselves continually in predicaments similar to that of Luke’s.
My girlfriend and I are running through the park yesterday on a warm, sunny, California afternoon when my partner — observing my relatively-slow jogging rate — suggests, “Ready to step up the pace?”
Nonplussed, I respond: “Give me a break! Can’t you see I’m struggling to keep up?”
Silence ensues, followed by a hurt: “I was just trying to help!”
What in the world has just happened here? One second we’re jogging along together in nature, the next we’re at each others’ throats.
“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of another boy.” –Woody Allen
It’s funny how the things we learn in elementary school stick in our heads and take on an element of “truth” as we get older. As far back as I can remember, for example, my teachers told me that I should *never* talk to other students while taking a test, for that would be *cheating*.
I’ve always played sports — never particularly well, mind you — but I’ve always played something. In elementary school and junior high, I was all about football — that is, until the game graduated from flags to tackle, I stopped growing and everyone else started to loom over me. In high school, I took up tennis, made the school team, and lost *every* match I played against the country club set. (Okay, I lost to everyone else, too) As an adult, I got into ultimate frisbee, then biking, and most recently, volleyball. Like I said, I’ve never been an “A” level athlete, but I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of progressing from graceless beginner to competent, not-stumbling-too-badly intermediate. And that’s fine. I’ve never felt compelled to devote the 10,000 hours required to become really brilliant at a particular sport. I fancy myself more of a jack of all sports kind of guy.
But still there are times…times when I think, “I could really be good at this…”
Trudging up the modest incline yesterday towards Spring Lake – huffing and puffing, chest tight, legs heavy as stones — I feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this run is going to be a momentous struggle. To my utter dismay, this 50-year-old body of mine just isn’t responding the way it had on our last run, when my girlfriend and I had sped around the 6-mile course in Santa Rosa (CA)’s Howarth Park in record time, barely breaking a sweat. On this brisk, fall afternoon, however – red leaves lining our path and picking up the last golden light of the day – I am laboring significantly, my feet unable to lift much higher than a walnut. “This isn’t fair,” I say to myself. “Each of our previous runs over the last two months has been slightly better and measurably stronger than the one preceding it. And our last outing was the best yet. Effortless. So what’s the story today? What gives?”
There’s a Zen koan that goes like this:
“If a man puts a gosling in the bottle and feeds it until it is full-grown, how can the man get the goose out without killing it or breaking the bottle?”
Apparently this riddle has been driving Zen monks crazy for the past several hundred years. Now, the thing about koans is this: they’re not supposed to be easy. Wikipedia describes koans as a Zen-practice “to provoke ‘the great doubt’, and test a student’s progress in Zen practice.”