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Coloring Outside the Lines  
By Dian Thomas

When I read, “It's more fun coloring outside the lines” in a blog written by Jackie Keller (the person who has coached me over the past few years to lose 85 pounds), I said to myself, "There is my next column."

If you know me well, you know I have spent my life coloring outside the lines. My philosophy has been, " No just means next ," and I can usually find a way to get most things that I want.

I remember one time when I was the lifestyle editor on the NBC “Today Show,” I was invited on a press trip sponsored by the Alaskan Sea Food Council. This was a big trip. I was to join 10 other food editors from across the country to go salmon and halibut fishing while we learned more about wild Alaskan seafood. I received my airline ticket. It was very important for me to catch that flight, because as I had to connect with another flight in Seattle that only flew twice a week.

I arrived at the airport all excited about my upcoming trip, only to learn that I had read the time wrong and had missed my flight by just minutes. I could not have been more upset. I immediately began checking out every way I could find to reschedule the flight. There was only one flight that would get me there in time to catch the flight out of Seattle, and it was overbooked, which meant that I could not even fly standby. No way did I want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My brain immediately went to "What do the airlines do?" They offer someone a big money reward to give up their seat.

I went to the gate where the flight was about to depart. I began going from person to person to see who would accept all my money to give up a seat. Believe it or not, I found a woman who would give up her seat for twice the price of her ticket.

My next challenge was to convince the airlines to make the change. It was not easy, but after talking to the supervisor I finally persuaded them to do it. This became one of the outstanding trips of my life.

When you color outside the lines, you put a lot of adventure into your life. You decide what it is that you want and you go for it, even if the answers come up, "No." I drove my teacher and parents crazy because I was always coming up with a different, creative way to accomplish the task before me. Now, I am still about creativity, innovations and unconventional solutions to my adult problems.

Reclaim Your Curiosity

The first step is to go back and get all that curiosity that you had as a child. Yes, it is still there, just waiting for you to dust it off and claim it. Now when you go out and about, use it. For instance, whenever I hear a person with an accent, I ask them where they came from. In all these years, I have never had anyone refuse to tell me.

This usually leads to more questions, and then I have a great conversation with someone who shares their unique and interesting country with me. You mentally can travel around the world if you just speak to the people you meet who have an accent. I recently did this at the gym and met a wonderful man and lady from Korea. They are now my dear friends and always encourage me to keep going to the gym.

Whenever I meet people with a handicap, or who are a little different from me, I often will talk to them if I think it is appropriate and not intrusive. The first question is always, "Is it OK for me to ask you a few questions?" That gives them an opportunity to say "No," and it does not embarrass either one of us.

I swim at a community pool where there is a woman whose arm is cut off above her elbow. I was curious about what happened and how she lived her life with this handicap. It is amazing; she raised her family with one arm. That is really a challenge. So, one day I asked her, and she was thrilled to share her life and challenges with me. I remember that she said the hardest thing to do was to peel a potato.

Now, every time I see her, I have such a deep respect for the positive attitude she has and the way that she has lived her life. She is now far more than a handicapped person — she is a true inspiration to me.

Life Outside the Lines

Take time to see how you will color outside the lines this year. That is what I call bringing adventure into your life. When I choose to color outside the lines, it brings three things into my life:

  1. It adds spice to my life
  2. It provides an opportunity for me to grow and learn
  3. I always meet new interesting and exciting people

For me, this year, here are a few ways that I plan to color outside the lines:

  1. I plan to ride across Iowa on the biggest bike ride in the world. It is called Ragbrai. My goal is to lose at least 42 more pounds so that it will be easier for me to pedal the 480 miles in 7 days.
  2. I want to go to China to see a friend's son who will be marrying a Chinese woman in a very traditional Chinese celebration.
  3. I am working on going through my house and letting the old clutter go so that I can be open for the new adventures in my life.

Now take a few minutes and see how you can add spice, fun, and new adventures to your life by doing something crazy, creative, or innovative. Color outside the lines!

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