Several weeks ago, my digital bathroom scales died. Its untimely death had nothing to do with my weight; scales just don't last as long as they once did. Every morning, I use the scales' red digital display to indicate how I'm fairing in my battle against the bulge. With its demise, I purchased a state-of-the-art 1999 replacement. Proud of my new purchase, I wanted to try out my new scales. I put in the battery and hopped on the scales.

Horror of horrors. It blinked back its red figures indicating that I weighed nearly nine pounds more than what I thought I had weighed prior to the death of its predecessor. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I had been fooling myself for several years thinking that I weighed 180 when in fact I weighed 189 pounds. Depression came across my mental horizon like a cloud before a summer storm. I had to do something. To make matter even worse, I had allowed myself to gain ten additional pounds that needed to come off that had nothing to do with the erroneous scale problem. Therefore, I needed to lose nearly twenty pounds to get to my ideal weight.

Strangely enough, the shock has motivated me into action. I'm now into a serious weight reduction plan. I had allowed myself to become complacent about my exercise and diet programs. When I realized that I was 189 pounds, I took action. I redoubled my attention to my cardiovascular exercise program and what I ate.

My experience isn't unique. Seldom do we respond to problems until they become serious. Here are some suggestions to take control of your life.

1. List areas that need to be addressed in your life. I need to lose weight, exercise more, and get on a sensible diet. What are your issues? You might want to quit smoking. Or it might be that you have overextended yourself financially. Perhaps your problem is a problematic relationship with a family member. No matter what the problems are, take the time to look at your life and develop a list of areas that need to be addressed.

2. Design a game plan to turn problems into possibilities. Instead of enduring unnecessary discomfort, develop a means to resolve each of the problems that you listed. Figure out what has to be done and get some target dates for guidelines to assist you in accomplishing the various tasks. Suppose you want to finish your education. How long will it take, which courses do you need, and what is a realistic timeline for completion?

3. Use the discomfort to empower you. The pain that you are experiencing will strengthen you to carry out the steps necessary to resolve the problems. Instead of spending time and effort avoiding the discomfort, make that uneasiness motivate you to face and resolve the annoyances. If you are dissatisfied with your present job, come up with a strategy to find another one. Take the discomfort of facing your boss or the boredom of your job to push you to do all that is necessary to acquire a new position. The pain of your present position will help you avoid procrastinating in your job search.

4. Believe in yourself and your power to change your life. The biggest hurdle that you will have to overcome often is yourself. Once you make up your mind, commit yourself to the obtaining of your goals. Don't allow anyone to derail you. Especially, don't allow yourself to get in your way.

If you promise to follow these steps, you too will be able to turn curses into blessings. When I had to replace my broken bathroom scales, I discovered a solution in the pain of the moment. Make pain motivate you to accomplish the tasks. There will always be setbacks on your way to goal acquisition, but don't give up. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving dinner registered on my scales, and I am beginning to worry about Christmas foods. This concern can motivate me now to recommit to my weight goal.

This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on December 2, 1999.