Buy this book – Be Like Russ.

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Why did you pick up a personal development book?

You are on Amazon or you are in a bookshop, searching in the business or self-help section for one of a few reasons.

  • You’ve tripped over it by mistake. Could be serendipitous, and you’ve accidentally discovered something that piques your interest.
  • You have recently been introduced to the concept of personal development and are exploring available options. You are looking to be better than you perceive you are. This is your first foray in the well of wisdom. Good luck. There’s plenty to see, here.
  • This isn’t your first self-help book. You are an avid reader of this kind of material. You’re addicted to researching the solutions that all your previous reading hasn’t provided. I feel your pain, because I have been there. Like me, you’re into ‘shelf-development’ by accident.
  • You are already successful by all ‘normal’ societal measures but there’s something that you either can put your finger on and you think an answer might be found within these pages, or you can’t put your finder on ‘it’ and you hope to realise what it is as you progress through the chapters. You’d be surprised how many potential readers come under this description.

But do you want to buy and read it, yet? No?

Let’s explore further.

Do you know someone who you think represents your ideal? And why do you think that person is your ‘ideal’?

I had someone in mind when I wrote that question. He was a consummate professional, arguably a leader in his field even though when I really knew him he held low rank in the organisation for which we both worked. He was at the same time one of the most caring supervisors and individuals I had ever known. His name is Russ. I hope you know someone like that.

If you really study people like Russ, you will notice certain things. You’d probably notice that they possess six character traits, and in my book The Three Resolutions I argue that those six traits come under three pairings. Mastery of those pairings will enable you to emulate your ideal and thus become someone else’s representation of ‘great’. Oddly enough, if you look at disgraced celebrities and politicians you will notice the lack of some or more of the same six character traits that make for true greatness.

Do you want to know what they are? Better still, do you want to possess them yourself? Good. But wait a little longer before making the commitment.

What if I said this was a book on ‘the simple, quick way to success?’ Would you buy it then? I certainly hope not.

We should all strive to be the best at what we can do. That is the objective of much of the personal development literature out there, but I think there is one problem with a lot of it.

A lot of the books have a tendency to over-promises and under-deliver. They offer ‘massive’ success, ‘greatness’, an ideal that is all too often defined as rich, famous and accompanied by the lifestyle of millionaires. Which is not to say that isn’t a worthy ambition and that you should never, ever pursue such a goal.

Unfortunately, the sad, sobering truth is that we can’t all be at the top of our respective field, even if we can strive towards that goal. We can’t all be celebrities because don’t all have voices like Katherine Jenkins or Andrea Bocelli, we can’t all act like George Clooney or Tom Hanks, and we can’t all write like J.K. Rowling and Lee Child. We can’t all be immensely rich because there’d be no-one left to do the work that we do. Economics would make all millionaires ‘poor’ if that was even possible. We can’t all run the organisation we work for, because there’d be nobody in the shop floor making the widgets we need to sell in order to pay our salaries.

Which is not to say we can’t try. And I will argue that we all have an inkling of what is required, but many of us tend to avoid actually doing it.

The six character traits under the three ‘headings’ are easy to understand, I assure you. The challenge is that they can be surprisingly hard to do. True greatness doesn’t come about through just pottering at something – it takes some effort, at least. I can’t make it easier to do, sorry and all that. Any author/ trainer/coach who says s/he can, is a liar. A charlatan. A snake-oil salesman.

But what I can do is make it easier to understand the traits, systematically help you see how they inter-relate, and motivate you to do something about what you discover.

Are you willing to consider doing that? To putting in the effort to understand and then actively apply what you read?

Still not convinced? Okay, let me try another tack. What if you don’t buy this book, don’t study its content and leave your success to accident, to other people’s design, or to fortune? What do you think will happen? Could you win a lottery if you haven’t bought a ticket? Can you get a job you haven’t applied for? Can you have a beautiful garden you don’t plant, nurture and maintain? In fact, can you get anything meaningful without taking action towards that end? Without at least doing something? Everything in life requires input if we are going to get output. Everything.

The fact is that while there’s not enough room for everyone to be at the top because the bar is always rising (and what represents talent changes with the mood of the client!), there is no need to be despondent because there is one thing at which we can be best, and once we achieve that we can all have the potential to go for the bigger things.

The one thing at which you can be great is – being the real, best, most competent, nice, disciplined, healthy, slim, helpful, dutiful and ultimately Russ-like ‘you’.

And that’s where The Three Resolutions come in. I invite you to read about them while you’re stuck indoors – and before you’re set free and accidentally default to how things were before.

Vietnam and The Three Resolutions

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For the past 8 days I have been dutifully watching a PBS documentary series on the Vietnam War, covering the 1961-1973 American involvement in what had hitherto been a French problem. And the overarching message that I have received has been – if they’d just applied the Second and Third Resolutions, maybe the lives of 282,000 US/South Vietnamese and other allies’ service personnel, 444,000 North Vietnamese/Viet Cong soldiers, and  627,000 civilians, would have been saved. Not all, I suspect – if North Vietnam had simply been handed control there would no doubt have been the kind of casualties usually associated with a communist takeover.*

Why would the Second Resolution have saved them? Character.

You see, the recurring message of the testimony and evidence produced showed (a) how often the US authorities admitted, in secret, that they were fighting a losing battle from when Kennedy was still alive and (b) that the self-interest of Presidential re-election was the focus of some of their decision-making. They even produced evidence that Nixon sabotaged peace talks as a way of supporting his efforts to replace Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 elections. How many of his citizens dies because of self-interest – because of a lack of character?

Which also brings up the Third Resolution. The other factors that killed countless people was unbridled ambition on the part of the leaders of both sides. The North could argue that they wanted to unite their country under one flag, albeit a communist one. The American evidence was clearly that, rather than acknowledge a huge error and step back from it with careful consideration as to how, they just threw people at it to avoid having to admit to a mistake – even someone else’s! Just to maintain power 6,000 miles away.

When I saw how many soldiers died taking ‘strategically important’ hills, only for the victors – survivors – to leave them once they got to the top, I was grateful that my children never volunteered to join the Forces, and simultaneously even more respectful of those who do.

I have always been willing to acknowledge and apologise for my mistakes. Even when my efforts have been rebuffed, and lies told about my errors, my disappointment has been more about another’s unwillingness to accept my apology out of self-interest, than it has been about the negative personal consequences.

Saying sorry often takes courage. It means acknowledging imperfection, it means risking a reputation – it means being vulnerable. Acknowledgement of a genuine effort to apologise is the least one can ask for.

But as Vietnam shows, stubborn insistence on ‘being right’ when patently ‘doing wrong’ in an effort to hide being even more wrongis dangerous to everyone involved.

Particularly for those who didn’t realise they were being misused by the players in the game.

Tell the truth. Live the truth, Acknowledge the truth.

Whatever happens.

*Turns out there weren’t any massacres. Just big re-education camps. Honest.

Handforth and the Third Resolution

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As I write this blog, the Handforth Council Planning Committee video is viral, the major press has got wind of it, and it has apparently chosen sides. Having been party to many a committee meeting myself, I thought I’d explore the concept from a Third Resolution (service) perspective. The question so obviously arising from this amusing event is – why do people choose to serve?

The most attractive and most frequently given answer will be ‘I want to serve the association, public, country, community’ (delete as applicable). For many, that is true. I know I wanted to serve my own Institute when I volunteered. Which was not necessarily my only motive, and therein lay the crunch.

In my opinion, when volunteering there is also the ego-driven desire to be/do something of importance. Don’t judge – there is an element of ‘What’s In It For Me’ in everything we do. That is a psychological truth. If there was nothing at all in it for you – what possible reason would you have for doing it? My evidence? ‘I want to be a nurse’ is a worthy vocational ambition, but years later ‘emptying Gladys’ colostomy bag’ loses its edge. You still do it because it serves your greater vision, but you’d be equally happy if you didn’t have to. We want the good stuff of the service we provide, and we endure the bad. Which is why there is no such job as ‘colostomy bag emptier’. No-one wants it. But they will do it as part of work they do want. You wanted the overall job, and to serve. You do the bad because it serves something else that IS in it for you.

The problems arise when instead of serving in order to get ‘something’, you start to serve with a view to making that service – serve you. Instead of giving to the cause, you start to demand that the cause gives to you – not just emotional contentment and a sense of purpose (which is why you started), but everything. The cause/organisation you serve now belongs to you, and you demand to direct it.

When I watched the Handforth video I found myself asking questions the press seemed to have ignored. Why was this ‘volunteer’ running the Zoom meeting and deciding who was in charge? Was she there because she wanted to serve – or because she didn’t like what she (or someone else) was hearing and wanted to stop it despite really having no business doing so? Watching the earlier part of the meeting suggests at least some internal politics at play.

If someone turned up in your meeting and declared she was running it because a third party ‘asked her’, what would your response be? If s/he rejigged the agreed agenda, added bits in and threw the Chair out because he wasn’t content to allow the hijack – would you go, ‘Fine, no problem’? And what if it was clear that half the attendees seemed to be either in on the hijack or willing to endorse it? (Which, if that was the case, would explain the anger displayed by the Chair/Vice-Chair particularly if it was happening ‘again’ and they’d had enough of it. Half a story is not a whole story.)

The Third Resolution is intended to counter the Restraining Force (possibly) demonstrated in Handforth. (And I emphasise – none of us knows the whole story, so that’s a big ‘possible’.)

That RF is UNBRIDLED Aspiration and Ambition. Note the importance of the adjective ‘Unbridled’ – aspiration and ambition in an individual is laudable until it becomes self-serving, and serves the individual at the very expense of the body being served. My observation of the meeting – which is admittedly subjective and may be misinformed – was that someone appeared to be interfering in someone else’s game, as modest and (in fairness) emotionally cool as she appears in the video, and perhaps shouldn’t have. I have done some research and have some questions but – not here. 🙂

So was she there to serve? And if so, serve whom? Only the parties involved know the whole truth. But if I wanted to serve the local authority I’d seek election or employment. And I’d only do it because I wanted to serve, even if I wanted to progress and serve from the top. Ambition good, unbridled ambition, bad.

 In the interests of balance, I might do a blog on emotionally-controlled addressing of interference and trespassers…….

It’s never too late – nor too early – to learn

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Ordinarily I write my blogs on the day I post them. I wrote this one five days ago, because I knew I’d be busy this morning. I mean that morning. I mean …. Oh, you know.

I knew I was busy on the morning this post would appear (that’ll do) because of my adherence to my personal value relating to ‘intellectual pursuit’ in that I had booked to attend a webinar. To be frank, it’s a webinar the content of which I already know and I could probably plan and present it myself (although the presenter is doing a bang up job). It’s on a subject I’ve studied for decades, hence my apparent over-confidence.

But I have always been of the opinion that ‘competence’, the ‘working’ half of the Second Resolution, is not something you achieve once. Competence is an ongoing obligation, and as competencies develop so does my need to maintain some kind of currency with the latest thinking on the subject at hand. It ahs been said that competencies have a half-life of about two-three years, meaning in that period you’ll lose half your usable ability if you don’t maintain some kind of continuing professional development. I know from recent experience that the procedural changes in the organisation I left in 2014 and to which I returned 18 months later meant that I was way behind in some respects. A steep learning curve was a pleasant surprise!

Many people rue additional training, while some welcome it. I find that the first group is split into people who hate it whatever it is, while some (cough) just detest such training if it is unnecessarily frequent or poorly delivered.

(Did you know that on the first anniversary of the day they are taught how to hit people with a metal bar, police officers are deemed to have forgotten? The same with First Aid. Complete mental collapse in some areas of their work that many apply frequently but on day 366 – all forgotten. Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic and there are valid exceptions.)

In the main, however, frequent attendance at training courses will at best enhance your professional (and personal*) competencies and at worst reinforce the ones you already possess.

So why not approach imposed training as something which will serve you in some way, and proactively seek out training in areas which until now you may have felt unnecessary – or better still, something you want to do just ‘because’.

When the lockdown finishes you will no doubt get the opportunity to return to a community college, further education facility or other provider who will teach you something you will need to know, or will want to know.

I know I will be.

( *I’m booking some ‘relationship’ courses even though I’m approaching my 40th wedding anniversary. Can’t be too careful…….)

For more on principle centred leadership, ready my book The Three Resolutions, available HERE.

My Biggest Mistake

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One of my deepest regrets in my professional life relates to a character flaw I had (have?) which was an unintentional, and oddly counter-intuitive effect of having studied the field of personal development, particularly the writings of leadership thought-leader Stephen R Covey.

Those who knew me best overlooked that flaw and saw something which I seemed determined to hide but (at least for them) shone through the cracks in the illusion I’d somehow managed to create.

It was this. Having discovered a sense of self-direction borne of the personal development world, everything that got in its way was annoying. And even if I didn’t say so out loud, which I occasionally did, then I would still somehow manage to communicate that frustration.

For example, in a busy CID office I walked in one morning to the news that my DI had selected me to investigate a vulnerable missing person. He was vulnerable by definition (over 65) but there was no actual fear for his safety. Anyway, that day I had a plan, and the news wasn’t welcome. I rang the DI, who wasn’t in, and left a message about how I was going to comply with his request and ‘then do some proper police work’.

Apparently, I went viral.

Good boss, raised it with my immediate supervisor and I went to apologise. (As an aside, that’s what I mean by ‘people who knew me well’ were able to make allowances.)

With 20/20 hindsight I wish that instead of having a ‘plan’ priority I’d had an ‘excellence’ priority, instead. That instead of moaning and whingeing (while still doing a great job) I did an excellent job in good humour, welcoming the trust and the challenges that were being offered to me. Perhaps I would have achieved just a bit more professionally – I did specialise and I did well, but much later on my hubris – and perhaps unwillingness to absolutely follow the change in political ‘line’ – bit me on the bum.

The same applied at home. If I had a plan and something interrupted it, instant strop. If someone doesn’t do what I ask (reasonable though it may be), I mention it DI-style. Not good for relationships, even if the penalty isn’t quite as drastic as a job loss, for example.

The point is – instead of pausing in the Stimulus-Response Gap and considering that a request was reasonable, do-able, developmental and relationship-building before welcoming those opportunities, I chose conflict. Imagine that – I chose conflict. How dull am I?

After all I have studied, agreed with, understood and desired to apply, I still find a tendency to bite. Not as much as I did, but too late to do anything about those mistakes I made, and to have another chance to learn from them.

Time is a bitch. It won’t move in the direction I need it to.

Anyway, apologies to the offended. It wasn’t personal unless I made it plain that it was.

The message?

Now is the time to adopt a considered, conciliatory approach to work, impositions, interruptions and people. The alternative isn’t worth the lack of effort. (It does make sense.)

Have a great week, everyone. Even those who offended me. Because now – I understand.

Failure is Meaningless – AND Meaningful

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Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, victim of the Holocaust and author of the most impactive book on a purpose-driven existence (Man’s Search for Meaning), wrote, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” In the same vein, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

How true is the life philosophy that such sayings promote? To be frank their veracity can probably be underlined by the fact that so many writers on the subject of personal development and the associated psychologies quote them. But their popularity does not necessarily make them right, any more than Lady Gaga’s views on American politics have a sound academic base because she writes nice songs.*

What is your experience?

My own life is a series of successes, followed by severe disappointments followed by bounce-backs followed by plummeting failure and back again. In fact, if I delve too deeply into my history I’ll probably depress myself – which is okay because I’ll come right back in any case. History says so.

Seriously, most successes have a history of failures to look back on. (Some successes still have those failures to come!) Two good example are Abraham Lincoln – many, many failures in terms of his political ambitions before becoming arguably the greatest US President to date – and Winston Churchill, who was up and down like the proverbial whore’s drawers (best simile I could find, sorry) between:

  • entering Parliament, becoming Home Secretary and being hauled over the coals for personally attending a siege,
  • later First Lord of the Admiralty, resigning over Gallipoli and sending himself to the Western Front,
  • then being constantly carped at over his warning about a famous German painter and decorator before
  • finally being given total command over Britain’s defence during WWII, then
  • voted out of power immediately after victory before
  • becoming PM again at the age of 77 before finally retiring from politics at 81.

Churchill could really have been forgiven for thinking, ‘Bugger all this’ instead of more famously deciding to ‘Keep Buggering On!’

Both these famous men, along with the likes of Gandhi, Malala Yousufzai, Britney Spears, Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr, are testament to the fact that if you have a deep, meaningful reason for doing what you do (and a talent for it that people recognise and appreciate) then the occasional setback – even the really embarrassing ones – need not be your Final Act.

The examples I use – celebrities and politicians – may not have had to deal with quite the levels of Nietzsche’s ‘what’ that Frankl suffered (concentration camp bereavements and horrible experimentation visited upon his person) but ultimately they had a sense of purpose that drove them through the pain and back towards success. As some sage put it – “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” (I’d say Ducky from NCIS but I think he pinched it).

I’m still really awaiting my next comeback after my last setback, but it’ll come. Meanwhile I have a sense of meaning that revolves around my grandchildren and their parents. (Is that order somehow symbolic?) I am lucky in that income isn’t a big issue – not rich, but secure – and maybe one day all this writing will ‘pay’ off. But if it doesn’t I’m still going to try.

I’m going to try because The Third Resolution drives even the biggest failures towards optimism. It drives me and it serves others – even if they haven’t been served yet. They’ll come around when they need me.

Which reminds me, the grandkids are coming around and I need to brace myself……..

*She may well have a degree in politics but THAT will be why her views have strength, not because she has a Poker Face.

The Daily Win.

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I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again. All those Californian, rich(ish) personal development speakers and writers and their ‘Rise at 5AM and exercise’ freaks are invited to come and live where I do in South Wales, where it’s easier to pick up the dog eggs in the garden at 6AM because they’re rock hard with ice. Where the idea of a home gym is fine if you live with a spare room big enough for a running machine or static bike, said room being centrally heated to at least ‘bearable’ for that early effort. And where going to bed early so as to get a decent kip before getting up at 5AM isn’t easy because the road and neighbours aren’t 100 yards away and are living their noisy lives while you try to drop off. And fitness clubs remain an expensive luxury.

Which is not to say that exercising is impossible. So far this calendar year, with the exception of the 1st and the 9th, I have exercised daily. Furthermore, with two exceptions, I have done so as soon as I got out of bed. Which, lucky me, is 7.30AM because I ain’t got a proper job.

I have a spin bike, a relatively inexpensive yet reliable (3 years so far) model. I have a mount (thank you Santa) for a 7” tablet through which I watch YouTube videos which inform, entertain or anger depending on the day’s choice. And a garden shed to put it in. There simply is no room in the main dwelling. You see, I am not a financial success like all those 5AM loonies. I am a moderate professional success on that I have always been employed doing work I enjoy, on the public purse in their service. So none of that ‘earn twice as much, work half as hard’ twaddle that Brian Tracy and Jack Canfield promote – which is valid for the entrepreneur or commission-paid individual but not the vast majority of us. If I wanted to earn twice as much as a copper I’d have had to work 76 hour weeks AND ask permission, first.

Each of us loves in his or her own circumstances, which do not necessarily reflect those described by such writers. Some do. Lucky them.

Back to me.

What gets me out of bed at 7.30AM, or more specifically onto the bike at 7.40AM, is The First Resolution. ‘To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to work on self-discipline and self-denial.’ I don’t want to ride a bike first, but it would be rude of a promoter of such a concept not to try. So that’s what gets me up. My Integrity. Doing the things I don’t like to do because (a) they serve me and (b) I said I would. If only to myself.

I should also be up front and state that it doesn’t work every day. If I don’t sleep well I’d make the next day worse, not better, if I self-flagellated with exercise before starting work. (I can always exercise afterwards, if I feel up to it.) But here, the point isn’t to apply self-discipline to the point of self-punishment. That’s a route to failure.

But I will also add that doing that exercise first, and educating myself while I do so, sets me up for the day exactly as Stephen Covey promotes in his books. He calls it the Daily Private Victory and to be fair, that’s as good a description of that process as any. It is (as he also puts it) mind over mattress. Long term gain over short term discomfort. Many cliches, all accurate.

I get up. I go out into the cold shed and exercise.

I win. The rest of the day is a breeze.

So much so, this took 15 minutes to write. In the flow. And with integrity – nothing I write is a lie to myself or to my reader. Whoever you are.

Be disciplined. But be disciplined early. Ish.

I never heard David Frost swear.

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We all have an ego. Most of us would prefer to use the expression ‘self-esteem’ because for some reason it lessons any sense of self-importance implied by the shorter word. Ego is a perfectly good term and its strength lies somewhere along a continuum that runs from ‘inert’ to ‘huge gravitational pull.’ I suppose that an ideal strength-level for a reasonable ego would be self-confidence borne of principled competence and character (and thus representative of compliance with The Second Resolution).

Some, however – usually those most vociferous and combative on Twitter in my experience – suffer from an excess, an over-confidence borne from being right, once, then venerated for it regardless of their actual knowledge or character. Or they have truly, expertly specialised in one field only to be asked their opinion on things well outside their Circle of Influence – and they freely give it, uninformed as it may be.

To my mind you can often tell the difference between modest, controlled, ‘self-respect’ level ego and the ‘ooh, look at how clever I am’ ego merely by watching a conversation (verbal or Twittery) take place.

A comment is made, and the reply is:

  • a straightforward attack with no effort to address the argument originally made (huge ego),
  • a question with an evident sub-text (high ego),
  • or a genuine question or provision of alternative, researched facts (principled ego, which is borne of a desire to check or clarify understanding).

 (Another weird one I have seen is when someone genuinely knows something and asks someone else ‘am I right in thinking…..’. That might not seem egotistical on first glance but in that case the sub-text is ‘Tell me again how clever I am.’)

Have you committed any of the sins described, or do you try as hard as I do to be in the third group? I am not always successful. Sometimes I have missed a crucial point and go off on one. But in the main I try to be in group 3, asking questions to seek clarification or providing some kind of reference for my thinking.

Unfortunately there are also those who you know will make their same arguments, or attacks. You know this, in the main, by the language they use about their opponents in the debate. Reference to people they have never met by the various insults available just demonstrate how ignorant, rude and ideological they are. A case in point.

In the 1980s a new, alternative comedy arose. On the face of it, great. No more stereotype humour based on race, religion or mothers-in-law. Meanwhile, lampooning silliness on the part of politicians remained de rigeur. Then the pendulum swung the other way, and now the abuse is directed by name, using words which were banned from use on TV until the late 70s. Politicians are no longer just lampooned for their acts. They are call the c-word. By name. They are fat-shamed, which wouldn’t be permitted against fellow celebs or the public, as a rule.

The comedians responsible for that should be ashamed of themselves. Some of them are exceptionally talented, funny gagsters. But I now find myself turning the off as soon as they start their ideological diatribes, and definitely move on when their personal abuse starts.

I hope their egos can cope. They must need a garage or second home for them.

If your objective has any nobility about it, you don’t need the language. You certainly don’t need the language if your argument has any merit. If you have any character, you don’t need the ego-boost of looking clever by bandying bad language at those who, much as you might think otherwise, can’t hit back using the same weaponry.

Although to be frank, I look forward to the day I hear Boris Johnson call Russell Howard a c**t.

The Christmas Excuse. Bin it.

Here we go again. ‘Tis the season to be merry, and in that spirit I anticipate entry into the annual merry-go-round that is the promise that “I’ll do it when we get Christmas out of the way,” I say merry-go-round because without any doubt whatsoever you know someone who says that and then, immediately after Christmas, replaces that festival with ‘New Year’, ‘Half-term’, ‘Easter’, ‘kid’s exams’, ‘the holidays’, ‘new school year’ and ‘we’re back to Christmas’. I do. I’ve forgotten what our oak dining table looks like, it’s been used as a laundry depot for so long. That’s other people dealt with. Now you/me.

These promises parallel the traditional New Year’s Resolutions, promises made to ourselves in respect of which we excuse inaction for similar reasons. This year I suspect it’ll be, “Well, New Year’s Day is a Friday, and I’ll be sleeping the night off. Then it’s the weekend so I won’t start then. I’m back at work on Monday the 4th, I’ll give it the beans then. Oh, look at all this work that built up because of my Christmas excuse, I’ll just get that out of the way….” And the failure loop spins ever onwards.

That’s the easy option, the comfortable one. The one that almost relies on stuff to happen so that we can excuse the lack of the one thing that changes everything*.

Self-discipline.

There is a continuum that runs from ‘things we like to do’ to ‘things we hate doing’. As the line runs from left to right, the levels of discipline required to do those things rises exponentially. People applaud the successful athlete and artiste, and it is true that the greats have imposed self-discipline on themselves, but I believe that their self-discipline is a reflection of the fact that they are doing what they love. It’s minimally required.

I believe in this motto:

Self-discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do because doing them serves you; Self-Denial is NOT doing the things you want to do, because doing them does NOT serve you.

To me, that couplet defines part of the route to success in any endeavour. Not all of it, because character and competence play an extremely important role as well.

In essence, the time we spend fighting against having to make the choice to do/not do what is under consideration would be better spent elsewhere.

Which means that immediately ‘Christmas is OVER’ you decide what levels of discipline you are willing to exercise in each of the roles you play in the great movie called Life, and then you start executing on that choice vigorously. Make the Hard Choice, or more pertinently Make the Harder Choice. When you don’t want to do something that you’ve decided serves you and that you privately committed to doing – Do It. Do It Now.

Author Mel Robbins wrote a whole book about the idea that when you think, “I have to….” Then you count down 5-4-3-2-1 and then just do it. I have used this to get out of bed on a cold morning, among other, more challenging choices. You can use it to go for a run, clean the car, actually do the things you said you’d do ‘after Christmas.

The time and mental effort you save will astound you.

Happy Christmas. Enjoy the break – you have a lot to do when it’s over.

(*Stephen Covey Jr says that is Trust, but my experience tells me otherwise.)

Wipe away the Tiers with Proactivity

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What a mess we are in, and what a mess the authorities seem to be creating. I don’t know whether they are right to create fear about a virulent flu that is a threat, whether this is a gross over-reaction to an annual event (and will happen every year for the foreseeable future), or whether it is a failing effort to reduce greenhouse gasses using the annual plague as an excuse. All I do know is that it is creating havoc for people, like me, who ‘make plans’ only for the prevailing rules to change 24 hours later. And I am lucky – I have no business or formal employment to worry about.

I don’t want to get caught up in the stats and how they are skewed and interpreted to suit. An increase in ‘cases’ resulting from an increase in ‘positive tests’ which results from massive testing doesn’t tell you/me how many cases have required action above going to bed for a few days. No, this blog is about how to respond to these inconveniences.

Proactively.

Whatever kind of challenge presents itself, it creates a psychological anguish that is representative of the gap between ‘what should have been’ and ‘what now is’. It means that we believe that what we had under control is, for the moment, outside of our control. The key to an effective response is to decide to act within that gap, using our God-given personal endowments.

You see, whatever happens, we can control our response if we decide to do so. We tend to default to ‘Poor Little Old Me’ (PLOM) in the first instance because the change imposed upon us creates work, in the sense that as we can’t do what we intended, we have to apply mental effort – and occasionally physical effort – to regaining the control we had. But that’s life. We do it every day, but most days we are immune to the PLOM effect because we are familiar with that particular inconvenience.

Three days ago I booked an event in Kent which I know would go ahead because despite that area’s Tier3 status they were still holding events of the kind I’d booked. Then yesterday, the local authority where I live changed its rules and threatened to cock things up here, instead.

Initially, despondency. Then a moment of clarity and the decision to explore with the event’s organisers whether I can change my date and pay a slightly increased fee for a later, less threatened date. If they say No, I have a choice – wait and see what happens the week before the event (when the Tier gets reviewed as planned) and comply. Or, yes, I can choose to go in any case. If there are penalties, then I can choose to pay them. It’s up to me.

And that’s the other abiding truth. We can decide how to respond to any imposition or event that affects us. But we can’t choose the consequences. They are outside our control. We can anticipate and plan for the consequences we reasonably expect will occur as a result of our choice, but we can’t guarantee them. So (for example), in the event that I would have to bend the law to execute on my plan and go anyway, I can choose to risk the authorities’ wrath. Or I can decide to comply, wear the relatively cheap cost of not being able to go, and start a revolution instead. (I am soooo miffed.)

If you think you have lost control of events, simply decide to take it back.

Look at the event and consider alternatives. Talk to people, ask questions, and despite advice to the contrary look for loopholes that will enable you to come through on what you intended. That’s why they are there – to exercise the mind, to beef up your initiative, to make you better.

Or you can just be miserable. ‘Cause that’s easy.

By all means. explore the purchase of my book. No pressure.