Lessons from the Tortoise 9/09

Lessons from the Tortoise 9/09
Claudette Pelletier-Hannah
September 2009


An impulsive decision to paint our basement on the Labor Day Weekend quickly put the ‘Labor’ in Labor Day.

As I fiddled with painting piddly little windows and doorframes, my husband quickly covered the big open spaces, yielding remarkable progress. I noticed a twinge of regret that I didn’t have much to show for my efforts. To my surprise, I even briefly questioned my painting adequacy.

Clients often tell me they need a quick win, or noticeable results, to fully engage or commit to weight loss.

I’d like to remind you of a story about a tortoise and a hare. You know how it goes. A hare brags about how fast he can run. The tortoise, tired of this boasting, challenges the hare to a race. The tortoise wins the race, with all the forest animals cheering loudly in support.

How is it that the much slower tortoise managed to outwit, outlast and outplay his opponent? Allow me to speculate.

The tortoise:

  • had a clear picture of his desired outcome/goal
  • worked hard
  • was determined
  • was patient
  • was confident
  • had support

Is it possible you’re looking only at the finish line to measure your success? If you’re noticing only the results on the weigh scale you could be missing out on powerful validation of your efforts.

There are many measures to consider when you take on any challenge. For example, if you are making changes to your diet and activity level, I recommend you pay attention to some of these other markers of success.

  • How do you feel?
  • How is your energy?
  • Has your digestion improved?
  • How do different foods make you feel?
  • How is your mood?
  • Are you handling stresses differently?
  • How have your relationships changed?
  • Are you sleeping better?
  • How do your clothes fit?

What else are you noticing? Become alert to all the changes inside and outside of you. All improvements, no matter how small, are reasons to hold your head up high – out of your shell. Every change you make has the potential to impact every area of your life. You might be working on your weight, but other aspects of you will also be impacted.

Clients find that when they divert their attention from their weight (results/finish line) to the process of losing weight and becoming healthier, the weight tends to come off more easily. Not rapidly, but easily. The slower the loss, the more sustainable it is. Those of you who have done it, know that maintaining the weight loss is the toughest part. It’s also the part that matters most.

The morals of this story

1. Develop attributes of the tortoise, including a tough shell and the courage to stick your neck out, as you tackle any new goal.

2. Check your beliefs. Perceived liabilities aren’t necessarily so, e.g., short legs, heavy shell.

3. Focus on your strengths. If you don’t know what they are, ask a friend.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others. There is no good to come of it.

5. Don’t underestimate the value of small steps, because slow and steady wins the race.

As for painting, I’ve learned it’s effective to match strengths to roles. The painter with the biggest flippers is built for large, sweeping movements, versus tight corners. The details are best left to the one who most likes that sort of thing. And just like weight loss, painting always takes longer than you think it will.


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