always been slim until I was about 35. Then I started to put
on weight and it bothered me. My first response was the obvious
solution: I tried eating less. But then I was hungry a lot and
I kept falling off the wagon and eating too much,
so every few pounds I lost I gained right back (plus a little
more). That was discouraging.
I felt discouraged, so what did I do? I
antivirus for the mind: I wrote down my demoralizing thoughts
and argued with them on paper. I discovered several mistakes
I made in my thinking, and my desire to try again resurfaced.
I decided the situation wasnt hopeless, and I should try
a different tack.
I was already exercising regularly, but
to lose weight I started exercising more. I thought I could keep
ahead of how much I ate. I would stoke my metabolism so high
that I lost weight. And it worked for a little while.
But then I injured my knee. What a setback!
That was very demoralizing. Can you see why? The best
kind of exercise for losing weight is aerobic exercise. How can
you get aerobic exercise without using one of your knees?! Its
almost impossible (I didnt have access to a pool).
This setback took the fight out of me.
I gave up on trying to be slim. And I gained weight. I also felt
bad. I was depressed. I was surprised at how disheartened I became.
I got up to almost 200 pounds. Thats not really obese for
a six foot, two inch man, but I wasnt slim any more, and
it looked like it would just continually get worse.
Id like to say I used the antivirus for the mind, but in this case,
I didnt. My wife, Klassy, did it for me. I cant
lose weight without aerobic exercise, I said one day, and
I cant exercise because of my knee.
Maybe there is some way to lose weight
you dont know about, she said, My dad used
to say its not what you dont know, its what
you dont know you dont know. Maybe there is something
you dont know about food or exercise maybe something
you dont even suspect you are ignorant about.
This was a brave thing for her to say,
really, because one of my hobbies has been to study about nutrition,
and it has been a strong interest of mine since I was fourteen.
I pretty much thought I knew everything about nutrition.
Im not casual about the things I
study. When I say I was interested in nutrition,
I mean I had read maybe eighty books on the subject, had a subscription
to several health magazines for years and read them with keen
interest, and I read the monthly Consumer Reports on Health
newsletter, the Berkeley Health Newsletter, etc. This
was a strong and enduring interest of mine and I thought I knew
almost everything about it.
But when Klassy said that, I realized I
really didnt know everything, of course, and maybe there
was something outside my knowledge a way to lose weight
I didnt know about.
The idea that I might not know something
just entertaining the possibility introduced uncertainty,
which is a very powerful antivenom. Uncertainty about a demoralizing
belief weakens the power of that belief. It instantly makes you
less demoralized and more open to solutions.
As it turned out, a short time later Klassys
cousin sent her a book called Protein Power, and I read it. Nothing in
this biochemically sophisticated book contradicted what I knew
about nutrition, but the conclusion was totally different than
anything Id ever read before: that modern people eat far
too many carbohydrates than our bodies have evolved to deal with,
and a simple solution to losing weight is to eat fewer carbs.
Everybody knows about it now, but at the
time, I had never read anything about low-carb diets. I had heard
of it, but assumed it was a diet scheme guaranteed not to work
(because it was impossible to sustain) like something in the
category of the grapefruit diet.
I immediately started eating fewer carbs
and within two months I lost twenty pounds and stayed there.
I felt great. And of course, I was no longer demoralized. In
fact, I was happy. I wasnt helpless about my weight after
The cause of my happiness can be traced
back to the introduction of a little uncertainty Klassy
helped me feel uncertain about my pessimistic conclusion (that
losing weight was hopeless for me).
I was, however, still depressed about my
knee. It had been years since I went for a good hard run and
I had always counted on that to keep me in a good mood.
I pulled out my trusty tool again
for the mind and looked at the knee problem. After
arguing with my pessimistic beliefs on paper, I didnt feel
so demoralized. My motivation returned. I wanted to do something
about it, but I didnt know what. I needed the advice of
I didnt want to go to regular doctors
because I figured all they could offer was drugs or surgery.
So I decided to go to a physical therapist first. I figured if
that didnt work, I could always try something else. But
if I got surgery first, I might not be able to try something
It was a great decision. The physical therapist
told me my main problem was a lack of flexibility. She said when
muscles contract again and again without stretching out, over
time the muscles get shorter. When your hamstring gets
shorter, she told me, it pulls on your knee.
She gave me some flexibility and strength exercises I could do.
I did them, and the pain went away! That was almost ten years
ago and I havent had any knee problems since then. Every
once in awhile, I will start to feel some pain in my knee, but
I just do some stretching and within days it is gone.
When life presents you with a setback and
you feel demoralized by it, the first and most important thing
to do is undemoralize yourself. The fastest and surest way is
to question your demoralizing, negative thoughts. Inspect them
And as you find mistakes in your negative
assumptions, your feelings of discouragement will start to lift.
Your mind will open and new ideas and information will be allowed
in. You will start doing things to solve the problem (now that
you no longer feel defeated by it) and your chances of overcoming
the obstacles will increase tremendously.
Mistake-free explanations of setbacks make
you highly resistant to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness,
discouragement, demoralization, and depression. The habit of
explaining setbacks without making those mistakes gives you the
ability to bounce back, to try again, and to refuse to give up
when things dont go your way.
Feeling not-at-all defeated by setbacks
does more than prevent you from giving up. It makes you more
successful at accomplishing your goals. It makes your tasks easier
and more fun. Giving up on a goal feels bad. Trying to
"push on" when you feel demoralized is not only difficult,
it's no fun.
If you can try again after setbacks, your
life will be one of growth and accomplishment. If, on the other
hand, even half the time, you give up after a setback, your life
will be full of unfulfilled dreams and wasted potential and outright
Every time you try to make your marriage
better and your spouse seems reluctant to communicate, every
time you try to do a good job at work and run into a problem,
every time you decide to get in shape and pull a muscle, your
explanatory style your usual way of explaining setbacks
to yourself will make the difference between trying again
or giving up.
And the way to ensure youll try again
is to write down your negative thoughts and then argue with them.
antivirus for your mind.
So now you know. Nature has divulged her
secret. You have a powerful weapon against feeling demoralized,
disheartened, or depressed.
Practice several times a week, arguing
with your own negative thoughts. Sit down and do it for a half-hour
at a time. Or simply do it every time you feel even slightly
demoralized. You hit small setbacks every day. Use those to train
your mind. Write your explanations and criticize them every day.
Habitual mistake-free explanations make
you healthier, happier, and more successful. The habit will move
you toward accomplishment, success, courage, determination, persistence;
toward wins and health and satisfaction.
Here is a summary of how it works:
1. The mind automatically and unconsciously
2. The explanations sound plausible but
dont necessarily have anything to do with what really caused
3. Those explanations have an enormous
impact on what youre capable of and what you decide to
do. They influence your attitude, your mood, your relationships,
your ability, your creativity, and your health. What you think
4. To uncover your explanation (to find
out what it is) ask, What do I think caused the setback?
5. The most effective way to improve your
explanations is to simply try to correct mistakes.
6. It works best to write out your
explanations and arguments.
7. You can feel better quickly by arguing
with your negative thoughts.
The skill to improve is to make your explanations
contain fewer mistakes. The skill that will benefit your health,
the skill that will bring you more success, the skill that will
give you more positive emotions and fewer negative feelings is
making your explanations contain fewer mistakes.
Form this habit: Whenever you feel negative
emotions, discover what you are thinking and see if anything
is wrong with it.
Whenever you feel down:
Search for mistakes in your
Here are the thought-mistakes for easy
reference: 22 Virus Definitions