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Live Life Fully: Reprogram your buttons

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When you hear the phrase "pushing your buttons," I'll bet it strikes a negative chord. That's because it's usually associated with manipulative behavior.

But what about pushing our own buttons? That could be framed either way, right? In the negative sense, it could indicate your inner critic is taking over once again. In the positive sense, though, it could mean getting into gear and getting on your game.

Have you ever peeked into the cockpit of a large plane as you boarded? What an amazing display of buttons, levers, dials and switches! What if, as you were boarding, you overhead the pilot say to the co-pilot, "Joe, remind me, what does this set of buttons do?" That certainly wouldn't inspire much confidence.

Steve Chandler, author of "100 Ways to Motivate Yourself," takes this illustration further by explaining that most of us pilot our own lives that way, without much knowledge of the instruments. We don't take time to learn where our own buttons are, or what they can do.

We can make a proactive choice, though, by noticing when things push our buttons. Make a note of the things that inspire you. That's your control panel. Those buttons operate your whole system of personal motivation.

By the same token, notice what brings you down. You may have more control over your environment than you realize. Once you know what triggers cause you to react in certain ways, you can begin to consciously program yourself how to respond. Or, at least, pull yourself out of a funk if you start to go too deep.

Are there some buttons you could push on yourself that would have positive results? Like finally conquering the procrastination that's plagued a project?

I'm still basking in the glow of an overdue home project my husband, John, and I accomplished last Sunday. Getting ready to hunker down for the big snow, he had put on a big pot of chili, and we planned to stay inside and tackle something that's been on our home list for quite a while.

Well, the snow didn't materialize. But the chili sure was good. And we stuck to our plan -- yay! You know how you have those little things that need to be done, but they don't quite rise to the top of your list? There's always something more urgent or more enticing that calls to you.

Such was the case with our spot on the upstairs ceiling. It started out small, nothing to worry about, really. But with each subsequent hard rain, it grew a little bigger. Obviously, it had something to do with a leak. Thankfully, it wasn't a roof leak. Getting to the bottom (or top) of it, though, would require maneuvering through the attic crawlspace -- ugh.

The project finally catapulted to priority status when it intersected with other household plans to do some interior painting. It wouldn't make sense to patch over and paint the spot if it would only be a temporary fix. So, it was time to suit up and tackle the project, once and for all.

After the chopping and browning of the chili ingredients took place -- and they were safely ensconced in the crock-pot -- we marched off to battle. I held the ladder while John (sometimes called Johnny by his relatives) climbed up to survey the insulation-laden abyss. I have to admit he looked pretty cute with his headlamp strapped on!

As we kept tabs with each other during his journey, I was reminded of the childhood game Marco Polo. When he finally reached the area above the spot, I relocated myself below it and followed his instructions to poke through the plaster. Yikes. I should have laid down something to cover the wood floor. That white stuff sure shatters!

Between pokes I laid down a fresh carpet of old newspapers on the floor. Cue the dialogue from the movie "Twister": "We have debris."

The verdict is in. Fortunately, it's not a major project. John gave the ceiling the green light to be plastered and painted. And he's scheduling a relocation of our upstairs heating and cooling systems to alleviate future trouble in the area.

Now it was time for me to get back to my ladder steadying post. Down he came, with tufts of insulation on his sweatshirt. Adorable accessories to the fashionable headlamp!

Pushing our own buttons last Sunday turned out to be a good thing. Mission accomplished.

Wafting of chili smells permeating the air. Furry children occupying prime real estate in front of the fire. (Our cat, Teester, has even earned the title "Hearth Hog," while our dog, Chloe, yields her space).

Johnny on the spot. Life is good.

Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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