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SELF-IMPROVEMENT OR SELF-DELUSION?

by Rose Madeline Mula

I don't understand it. How come I don't have flat abs, buns of steel, and firm thighs and upper arms?

I have shelled out big bucks for every available exercise video targeting those areas, at least a dozen books illustrating ways to achieve those goals, as well as a treadmill, an exercise bike, a rowing machine, and — most recently — an exercise ball. I even bought a gorgeous designer jogging suit and hundred dollar sneakers. But no results.

I probably do have flat abs, but they're still buried under layers of flab; my buns are still more Entemann's than steel; and my thighs and upper arms still have the consistency of unset Jello.

So why am I not in shape? My doctor tells me that good intentions and maxing out my credit cards for the videos, exercise equipment and books don't do the job. She claims that I have to use the equipment I bought and actually do the exercises demonstrated in the videos and books. Is that true?

I also invested in at least a dozen diet books — Atkins, Pritikin, The Zone, South Beach...Do you suppose the reason they didn't work was because the only one I in fact tried was The Nine-Day Ice Cream Diet? Maybe I should have guessed that that one belongs in the "If it sounds too good to be true..." category.

I also have similar problems in other areas of my life. Take digital photography, for example. I bought a state-of-the art camera. Too many bells and whistles. I couldn't figure out how to use the blasted thing. Forget the manual that came with it. Like most computer-related instructions, it was written by a techie who assumes that the average layperson graduated from MIT, summa cum laude. I decided I needed Digital Photography for Dummies; but when I went to the store to buy it, sitting right beside it was The Complete Idiot's Guide to Digital Photography. A quandary. I couldn't decide if I'm a dummy or an idiot. So I bought them both. That was two months ago, and my digital images are still fuzzy and overexposed. Does that mean I'm going to have to crack open those books and read them? Bummer.

The same with housework. I have spent a ton of money on every new miracle mop, magnetic duster and magical cleaning potion to hit the super market shelves and be featured in TV infomercials. But somehow I never seem to have the time to use them. I'm much too busy avoiding exercise, buying more diet books while making excuses not to diet, and writing complaint letters to the manufacturer of my digital camera.

I did buy a robot vacuum cleaner so I could at least have clean carpets without any effort on my part. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn how to use the remote to keep it from choking on the fringe of scatter rugs or getting stuck under furniture and frantically beeping for me to come and rescue it. What's more, I discovered it expects me to empty its dustbin from time to time. For what it cost, shouldn't it be smart enough to open the door, go outside and throw up its contents without any help from me?

Also, considering how many foreign language learning tools—books, videos, and courses (both on site and online) — I've bought over the past several years, I should easily be able to dash off this essay in Italian and French, as well as English, and thereby broaden my market exponentially.

Unfortunately, again, I eventually realized that the amount of money spent on instructional resources does not translate into results. The hidden requirement of expending effort, as well as $$$, is always there. It doesn't seem fair somehow.

On second thought, maybe that's a good thing. It's comforting to know that the rich do not have an advantage over the rest of us when it comes to self-improvement. Or do they?

Yeah, actually they do.

Take exercise, for instance. Sure, even the wealthy have to work out to achieve results; but they can afford to have a personal trainer to motivate them in their own state-of-the-art home gyms, and they can swim laps in their indoor and outdoor Olympic size pools. Or they can forego the physical effort completely and simply pay an eminent liposuction specialist top dollar to suction the fat out of their problem areas.

As for dieting, somehow I think it must be a lot easier when you have your own in-house chef (a Cordon Bleu graduate with a master's degree in nutrition) creating low-fat, but yummy repasts and snacks.

The same applies to educational pursuits. For example, if I didn't have to wade through all the indecipherable manuals and could instead afford to hire a Bill Gates wannabe to give me one-on-one lessons on my digital camera, computer, whatever ... I, too, could become a technical guru. As for learning a foreign language, spending quality time cavorting with the natives in Paris and Rome would be tons more fun and a lot more productive than trying to memorize irregular verb conjugations from books and tapes.

And while I am "studying" with Francois and Giovanni, a staff of servants would keep my estate spotless, with absolutely no sweat off my brow.

Unfortunately, until I win the lottery, none of that is going to happen for me. If I want to change my life, I'm just going to have to apply myself and become more disciplined. But how?

Wait. I just remembered. Yesterday I saw an ad for a book titled, A Sure-Fire Formula for Self-Motivation. Just what I need. I must run out and buy it immediately. I know it will work — if I can figure out how to motivate myself to read it.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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