Values-based Time Management Means Achieving the BEST Goals.

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“If a goal isn’t connected to a deep ‘why,’ it may be good but it usually isn’t best.” Stephen Covey

I hereby truly and solemnly declare and affirm that I want to run a marathon.

That is a true statement. Deep down I want to be able to say that I ran a marathon, that I did it in less than 4 hours, and here’s my medal on display in the cabinet with my bronze swimming certificate.*

Yes, as far as running a marathon is concerned, I really want to run one. But I am not prepared to make the effort.

The reason I am not prepared to is because such a goal is often a dream that is planted by the achievements of others, by a desire to demonstrate a high level of physical fitness when such a level is not necessary for achievement of any of my other goals, and ultimately by ego – I want to brag about it.

Let me emphasise – they would be MY motives, and if you want to do a marathon for truly personal, deeply emotional reasons you go ahead and do it, and good luck. I am not here to tread on your dreams.

The point I am making is that achieving someone else’s goals, or seeking achievement for reasons of ego, probably won’t result in the deep happiness that comes from achievement pursued for truly personal, deeply impassioned motives. On the other hand, if achieving those goals is a means to a better end and not ends in themselves, the passion for those longer-term outcomes will help you achieve the smaller steps on the road to that greater success, the success you really seek. And let’s face it, you’ll be fitter and better able to enjoy that success (provided you haven’t crocked yourself in the process). And the greater success will be the one that serves your values system.

Seeing the goal as something which serves your values is the essence of values-based time management. Selecting a goal that doesn’t dovetail your values system is futile – you won’t do it, or you will detest every moment spent in striving for it, and UN-happiness is not a normal pursuit, is it? (Masochists excepted.)

I suspect that a 10k running ability is ample for most of us who don’t enjoy sport for sport’s sake. If you can run 6 miles in an hour and have a sensible diet you’ll be fit enough for most professions. If you want to get fit enough to achieve your other goals, decide on a sensible level of fitness, pursue that, and spend the rest of the time on the actual objective.

Spend as much of your time as you can on getting the result you seek, and a sensible-but-lesser proportion of time on the ‘side-issues’ that serve that objective. Plan your time so that you maximise the likelihood of achieving the (your) Main Thing, without spending too much time on achieving side-goals that will serve the greater objective but aren’t goals in themselves.

It’s a fine balancing act and using a suitable, personal planning system will help. In that, you put your Mission and Goals to the fore, and plan to spend as much of your time not on ‘shoulds’ or ‘coulds’, but on MUSTS. The other two can be fitted in around them.

And be careful that those ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ don’t become excuses for procrastination! (Next week’s subject.)

*I don’t have one of those, either. I am not a fish and if I am going two miles on water, I know people with boats.

 

For more on Values-Based Time Management, go here, or go to the Books page on this site

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Don’t learn TOO much. Find ‘The Way’ that works, then ignore alternatives.

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I attended a talk last Monday by an excellent speaker, Jamie Denyer, whose presentation included a sobering observation. Once I got past his odd clothing choice – a bit hip-hop for a grandfather living in Swansea – I really enjoyed all of his talk, except that sobering bit. The sobering bit thrown right at me, personally. At least, I thought it was personal. I thought it was personal because the cap did fit and I had to wear it.

He described the individual who buys a personal development book, avidly reads it to the last page, then puts it down and “waits for the magic to work.” Then, when it doesn’t work because they aren’t applying it in a disciplined fashion they go out and buy the next one – and repeat. Then they repeat ad nauseum. He said that this is referred to in the trade as ‘shelf-development’, in that your book shelf gets fitter by holding up all your books.

Ouch. You should see my collection.

When I give talks on self-leadership (yes, fraudulently to some degree), one of the things I tell people is this.

  1. Choose your self-help book carefully. (I recommend The 7 Habits or Awaken the Giant Within, plus a couple of good time management books.)
  2. Apply the content religiously and don’t buy any other book!

There is a personal reason that I do this. I will sit there and read one of my books. I will then think, “This is the system I will now apply.” I will then see another book, listen to another trainer, see a new form, or just have something come to mind when I am walking the dog, and I start to think about how I will apply that instead of what I was already (supposedly) doing. As a result, instead of ‘doing’ I am perpetually ‘thinking about doing’.

The daft thing is – and Stephen Covey wrote about this in The 8th Habit – they are all saying the same thing.

  • They ALL say that taking responsibility for our thoughts is the key to a directed, patient, principled life.
  • They ALL say that having goals and a sense of direction towards a passion is key to a successful life.
  • They ALL say that relationships are important.
  • They ALL say that looking after your body enables success in the former three endeavours.

BUT they all have subtly nuanced alternatives to how to apply the philosophy to the discovery of a purpose and how to define goals.

I have suggested before that success is created by application of self to a simple philosophy.

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Manage your time accordingly.
  3. Communicate with clarity – in and out.

After that, it’s all about method, system and practices. For me, I always come back to Covey’s template because I understand it so well, teach it in schools, and absolutely believe in the systematic approach and principled teaching that it is. You could choose Canfield’s, Robbins’, Ziglars, Hobbs – whoever you like.

But just pick one. It leaves the mind clear for the important stuff. Then apply it with discipline.

Lift the fog, then you can go much faster.

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In his audio programme, ‘What Matters Most’, author and speaker Hyrum W Smith describes the following situation. You are in your car, alone, driving along when, without warning because you weren’t paying all that much attention, you find yourself entering a thick fog. It is all-enveloping; like a pilot flying into cloud who loses all sense of up and down or right-way-up, the depth and intensity of the fog means you lose all sense of where you are. You can barely see in front of you despite your summer-time use of fog lights, and you have no reference points ahead, to the side or behind that can help you.

Immediately, you brake but still concern yourself whether what is behind will collide with you. You slow, terrified that something unidentified and ahead of you will threaten your personal safety. You are now in a dead crawl, almost stopped. Your progress is extremely limited, if it exists at all.

Suddenly the fog lifts. Now you can see where you are going, in absolute clarity. The way ahead is clear. You start to accelerate; you make headway and your mind is now free from the clutter of fear. In time, you reach your destination.

Is your life occasionally just like that?

Do you sometimes lose all sense of direction and find yourself slowing to a dead crawl, wondering what you are for, where you are supposed to be going, even convinced that even when you DO know where that is, you are never going to get there? And when the opposite applies, when you really know what you’re heading for and how to get there, doesn’t life feel great, like you have the moon on a stick and nothing can spoil things?

High self-esteem comes from knowing what you want, seeking it and acting in a fashion that is wholly congruent with what you believe. The opposite is an experience many of us have, where what we are doing is absolutely not what we want to be doing, or (worse) the values of those for whom we are expected to do it are in conflict with our own.

I know I have seem people I respect and admire start to follow a ‘political’ path that is wholly out of kilter with how I thought they were, and knowing that they were in conflict with those beliefs meant I was having to spend time challenging my own in order to work for them. Instead of working towards the vision and with the values I thought we both had, they fogged things with ‘political sensitivity’ and our attention and activity were diverted and slowed.

This was a hateful place to be. Situations like this mean you start work for pay instead of passion, when the economic realities of life are the only thing stopping you from telling your employer to stuff their hypocrisy and their job. It’s when work becomes a chore instead of a vocation.

A failure, or environment-imposed inability to act in keeping with your values and personal vision causes the worst, densest, vision-spoiling and therefore dangerous fog that could ever be.

Smith’s example illustrates just how important Vision actually is. The contents of my two books, Effective Time and Life Management and The Three Resolutions, include some serious arguments for developing your own sense of purpose. Or Google values-based time management / mission statements/ values clarification and read more.

Please. I don’t want to collide with you because of your own fog. I have enough challenges dealing with my own.

 

What you HATE can tell you what you VALUE

What is important to you?

That is a question familiar with most clients of personal development programmes and coaches. It is a valid question, intended to help a client identify their governing values, the values which (should) direct their activities if they are to succeed in discovering a sense of happiness and purpose, and (from a time management perspective) where they should focus their mind and their time. Makes sense, working towards identification of what you want.

I have just returned from walking my delightful collie, Abby. Abby doesn’t visibly wear a watch, but she seems to know when she is due her daily walk so must have one on her person somewhere. However, the fact that she has started looking at me expectantly, one hour early, suggests she failed to put her watch back last October.

Anyway, I hate walking my dog. I love my dog, but I hate walking her. And it was while walking her, hatefully (can’t emphasise that enough), that I asked myself, “What if a good way of identifying what we love is to identify what we hate?”

I hate – people parking on pavements when it isn’t even necessary; dog walkers throwing their poo-bags in the river; people who don’t signal properly when driving (in fact, any poor driving standards, including limp-wristed steering); untidiness; any act of inconsideration that normal, respectful behaviour would normally counter, like NOT putting luggage on train seats to avoid the terrors of ‘being sat next to’; I hate being lied to – particularly by broadcasters who say they are there to entertain you but put adverts 6 minutes into a programme. Liars.

By analysing what I hate, I find myself discovering that what I value pretty much represents the opposite. I value order, high standards of performance, not wasting time (like walking a dog….), and compliance with rules that benefit all, like respectful behaviour towards others. And to a great degree, honesty.

So this week, as part of your values-based time management studies, look at those things that wind you the hell up and see what their opposites are. Then, ask yourself if those do represent your values system. If nothing else you’ll know why people p155 you off so much…..

 

BTW The Three Resolutions book is now available again through Amazon Kindle. I’ve reconsidered the model, and rewritten the text a little to more accurately reflect what the 3Rs represent to me, and how they could help you.

Get it HERE at Amazon.

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The Forgotten Skill.

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I tweeted a while ago through @3ResolutonsGuy that after you decide upon your purpose, the rest is just well-executed time management and active communication. I have also discovered, with the help and guidance of several highly educated, qualified and wise mentors that ‘time management’, while a perfectly understandable marketing cliché, is better termed ‘self-leadership’. Communication, if you like, comes under the separate heading ‘interpersonal leadership’.

Having said that I prefer the term self-leadership, however, I find myself reluctant to use it because of something else I have observed. And what I have observed is that the proliferation of genuinely great self-help books, having raised the bar in the personal development field, seem to have inadvertently left the science of time management behind.

Some might disagree, but in my view while digitising communication was supposed to make life better, it actually seems to have hampered our ability to communicate using correct grammar, in considered and polite tones, and after deep thought. It even hampers speech. I am heartily sick of asking people why we are conversing text by text, or email by email, when simply speaking on the telephone would take a lot less time, clarify understanding and speed up completion upon what is under discussion.

In the same vein, while the new world of instant communication should have increased our ability to produce, I find people are no longer being taught, properly, how to manage the massive increase in expectations that the new world demands. They have the digital tools to manage time, but not the education that would enable better use of those tools.

Proof? Do you, like my many colleagues in a hugely digital policing world, keep a separate paper to-do list and diary? Yes? If so, you haven’t been taught how to manage time properly. You may think you are, but you’re under-utilising the potential of a proper, disciplined and systematic approach. And don’t think having a digital diary and to-do list makes you any more effective – you may just be digitally ineffective. You may be cutting edge, but just as lost. (See iPads…..)

Another thing I have noticed is that ‘managers’ and ‘executives’ get (some, occasional) time management training while the front-line staff, the ones doing the work and managing the multiple tasks and challenges, do not. How considered is that?

Hence the change of focus for this site. It’s going to be more about productivity and self-management than about self-leadership because most of us now know where we are going, but cannot manage, as well as we could, how we are going to get there. Including me.

I am going to start exploring time management issues, and invite you to read along and see if something I say improves your lot, and whether your alternative perspectives can improve my own. It won’t just be about method. There’ll be philosophy, theory and observational comedy as well.

Follow me on http://threeresolutionsguy.com or @3ResolutionsGuy and let’s see where we end up.

Einstein had a point.

Einstein (or the Chinese, or anyone that writers want to quote without actually looking it up) suggested that ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’.

That being so, I am going to disappoint my fan and stop blogging for a while because the shortage of interest in the blog, allied to the complete lack of clicks on the ‘sales’ part of my website, suggest it’s time to move on to a different approach.

I’m gaining an hour a week. 🙂

 

Where HAS the year gone?

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In a blink of an eye, just over 1/52nd of 2017 has passed by, and we’re already back into the post-holiday routine. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the work that built up while we were in the pre-holidays procrastination period has hit us broadside on – all the stuff people put off ‘because it’s Christmas’ still needs to be done, but now it needs to be done alongside all the new work that has arisen as it always does, and always will.

How much of the stress we associate with the amount of work we have to do is wholly the result of our unwillingness to manage our time – or more accurately, ourselves? I’d argue that one of the major factors in our workload woes is our own resistance to doing things at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way, and to the appropriate standard. To a large extent, all three of those factors are within our Circle of Influence, but many of us – the time-strugglers – are unwilling to buy the book, do the course or just take the time to learn how to manage ourselves and our time to best effect. And it is in ‘post-break’ moments that this situation becomes more stark.

One big mistake is putting off the unrelished 5-minute-but-really-important task. Maybe a telephone call, maybe writing a letter or filling out a form. It’ll be a tedious, hateful job that should take 5 minutes, but because it’s tedious and hateful we keep putting it off. Then it suddenly becomes urgent, or worse it doesn’t get done until it’s too late, and we suffer the stress that urgency or potential disciplinary proceedings that ensue.

And it was all our own fault.

You can’t manage time, but you can maximise the time you have, and one simple strategy is to Do It Now! The time management experts all agree – a short task needs to be done as it arises (wherever possible), because doing so opens up available time for the more important stuff to be done properly. It clears space in your head, and it is an inoculation against the stress caused by procrastination.

Of course, Do It Now is not the cure for all time management ills, but I can state two things from my experience of applying the time management methods repeated in my book Effective Time and Life Management, available from Amazon Kindle HERE.

First, doing the quick things now keeps a desk and a brain clean, tidy, and available for creative thinking, planning and execution. Second, having created that time through applying the Do It Now philosophy and by creating and executing on properly scheduled priorities, life is less stressful and much more productive. Not just in work, but where leisure time becomes available because the work is done. And by planning that as well, life can be great.

Buy a book – preferably mine but there are others listed on this site – and apply what is contained therein.

And don’t say you haven’t got time. Read a book one Saturday instead of going to the pub. You’ll probably spend less and will definitely learn something that can improve your lot 24/7.

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Go on – I very dare you. HERE.

Happy New Opportunity

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Bad news, everyone.

If you are going to have a happy 2017, YOU are going to have to make it happen.

The good news is – Mike Oldfield is bringing out a new album.

The other good news is that you CAN make 2017 a great year regardless of what happens to you IF you follow one rule.

Act in complete congruence with your personal code of conduct – Act with Integrity.

All the time. For every decision. No excuses.

That does not mean being a martyr. It just means deciding that in everything you do, you will act in accordance with your personal value system, unifying principles, credo, mission or code of conduct. You know what your rules are, and you know when you break them.

There will be times when bending them is permissible because of the prevailing circumstances. Remember that while you have no control over outside events, you DO have control over how you respond. Sometimes, the response you must provide may not be the one you would like to execute because the external circumstances simply won’t allow it. When that happens, you are not ‘failing’ to live with Integrity – you are just stuck with having to do something else, something slightly less perfect. Don’t focus on things you can’t do anything about – do the best you can and move on to the next opportunity to act congruently.

This is harder than it sounds because of those external influences on our lives, but each negative event is a chance to pause and decide not to be dictated to by emotion, ideology, your past, or other people’s expectations. It is a chance to decide ‘I choose to act differently’ and then to act on that better choice. Our past, and the lessons we learned are powerful influences over our decision-making but they need not dictate our response. We tend to overlook that it was seeing things differently that made our lives better, whether it was through education, experience or bitter regret. Instead of allowing those bad things to teach us by waiting for them to happen, we can instead prepare for bad things well in advance by deciding, using our self-awareness and imagination, how we will deal with them.

I sometimes wonder why, when my parents passed away, I did not collapse in tears. I loved them both dearly, but as they passed away there was some sense of ‘that’s the way it is’ within me, and with hindsight I think it was my values system and my study of Stephen Covey’s works that meant that what was happening wasn’t disaster, but a natural event that emotional collapse wouldn’t change. I waited until the funerals to shed a tear, yet even then did so quietly. I also suspect that dealing with death in a professional capacity took the edge off dealing with their deaths because ‘death’ wasn’t something unfamiliar. I only hope that those close to me didn’t think it cold – it was just that sadness is less of a curse to me than anger!

(Stop moping.)

2016 was bloody awful. (Outside of all the saintly drug addicts, alcoholics and other celebrities that warranted angst when they passed away.) And one of the reasons that it was awful (for me) is that I allowed myself to lose control, on one occasion so badly that it really sobered me up for weeks afterwards.

I fervently intend that 2017 will be a different lesson – where I truly role model that which I believe in, and teach. Like a comedian who is privately depressed, I feel like the personal development trainer who knows his stuff but manifestly fails to perform it. And I encourage you, dear reader, to do differently.

Every time you know you should be doing something but seek out excuses – decide to do it. Whenever you’re about to do something you know undermines your better intentions – decide NOT to do it. It only takes the time needed to take the reluctant action, or to step away from the event that impedes your success. It can be less than one second. One second that lies between guilt – and higher self-esteem. But execute, then repeat.

Decide on your purpose/mission/unifying principles and work damn hard at making it easy to act in their accord by making your decisions absolutely congruent with what you believe, and accepting those moments when you can’t. That’s my intention for 2017.

Happy New Year.

 

 

‘Tis the Season to be Stupid, falalalala, lalalala.

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“To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions.” William James

Funny, isn’t it? Right now, with 20 days to go, I am positive that millions of people are making their rules for 2017, applicable from Day 1. (Okay, maybe not so much the Chinese, who have a different New Year.) They plan to diet, exercise, rise early, watch less telly, etc. Or maybe that’s just me. Again. Every year since ever.

Honest intentions, I have no doubt.

Next funny thing. Having promised to eat better, exercise etc. etc., they (we)  rationalise that because this is the season of celebration (and the conventional wisdom for celebration is to eat and drink to a massively stupid – yes, stupid – degree),  the fact that we are definitely starting to live better on Jan 1st means we can justify doing the exact opposite.

And I am just as stupid as most of you, in that regard. (Not as stupid as those who think it’s okay to do it FROM New Year until Christmas. Love to those alcoholics who will give up booze for a month to prove they’re not.)

William James, the ‘father’ of psychology (not psychiatry, different science), sought to identify the proper prescription for a successful life. By successful, he spoke not of fame and fortune, but of greater personal effectiveness and integrity, where one lived in accordance with one’s values and therefore did not suffer the debilitation of depression, stress and guilt. His prescription was to advise people throw themselves into our primary objective – living life with the peace of knowing that what you are doing is good for you, good for others, and which serves a greater good. Even if that service only means becoming a role model for others.

Bear with. You have a conscience. It may be teeny weeny, or it may be a big bu66er. But you have one. When you fail to act in accordance with its sage advice, you feel a soupçon or a bucketful of guilt, depending upon its capacity and your willingness to listen to it. What you do with that knowledge is the difference between achieving James’ definition of success, and living a life of quiet desperation where you spend every evening wondering where the day went and why you haven’t achieved what was on your principled list of things-to-do.

How do I know? I know because that has been a tendency* in my life. A lot of my friends seem impressed with the amount of ‘stuff’ I do and the miscellaneous blobs of service for which I am known support their belief, but I know I could be a doing a whole lot better.

And with few exceptions, so do my readers.

Right now, those close to me privately and professionally are all preloading every conversation around the cake/biscuit barrel/sweet tin with ‘well, it is Christmas’, then stuffing their face knowing how daft they’re being. And (here’s the annoying part), after Christmas they’ll all go on a diet and bring their left-over cr4p into work. Thanks a bunch.

Starting today is key. It’s not easy, but it is the only truly sound route to getting what you want, and getting it soon enough to enjoy it.

My advice, therefore, is to follow William James’ advice. But be a little bit careful with the ‘flamboyantly’ bit. I think he meant do it ‘big time’, not dressed in a pink tutu, wearing a Stetson and covered in Braveheart make-up.

 

*Does ‘tendency’ mean absolute headlong throwing-yourself-into-dedicated-idiocy?

Why I am curmudgeonly.

Okay, I buckled. A very kind gentleman complimented my blog and invited me back. So here I am.

At the last meeting of ‘my’ Speakers Club , a round robin was started by the Chair, asking us to tell the audience what we hate. Fortunately for me, by the time it came to me the tea had arrived. Unfortunately for the next meeting’s participants, this meant I had time to prepare properly. And the first challenge I had was keeping it down to 8 minutes. This is a summary of what I said.

“You’ve heard the odd rant from me, but here’s a big one. What do I hate?

  1. For a start, I dislike the demise of the letter T. Professional presenters, whose very professionalism SHOULD be pinned on their ability to speak clearly, seem unable to say it. I am sick of people ‘not gehhin’ ih’, and them going to ‘parhhies’.
  2. People who demand instant attention by you regarding their priorities, but take 3 days to even consider yours. I have worked in an organisation where everything administrative must be done now – and I mean everything – so what happens is that people doing everything administrative ‘now’ MUST fail because the things they are doing ‘now’ must replace all those other things they SHOULD be doing ‘now’. Like the things they’re paid to do – which ISN’T ‘just’ admin. And they constantly feel as though they have achieved zilch. But the paperwork’s good. (Think – if the administrators went home we could still police -unpaid – but if the police went home the administrators would be pointless. Think on that.)
  3. Mobile phone use by drivers. If you do it, you’re a tw4t. End of.
  4. The new motorway following distance in the wet of one arm’s length.
  5. Pavement parking – especially in wide streets. For 50 of my 54 years I have noticed how 52-seater buses can travel up the average street by me without bouncing off parked cars, but now people think it is necessary to park on the pavement to avoid what hasn’t happened and likely never will. Let’s face it, if they could park in their front rooms the lazy b4st4rd5 would do that, too.
  6. People standing in front of you in a book shop. I am 6 feet tall, not inconsequential in stature, and yet I will be in a narrow aisle in a bookshop clearly looking at books because my head is tilted 90 degrees to read the spines – and some (usually old) idiot will just appear right in front of me and start doing the same.
  7. Long song intros with wailing singers. If the intro is long enough to warble ‘Oooooohhhh,, yeeeeah, mmmmm’ then it’s too long. Shorten it or just shut up. And if you can’t hit the note first time, you ain’t good enough.
  8. I’m a Celebrity Cooking while I dance or skate or drive to work” and other such programmes. And the people who watch it and post on Facebook that they watch it. Read a book.
  9. The Daily Mail website. Left column, ‘shock as eye-following glasses show men staring at ladies breasts’. Right column – bikinis, references to side-boob, ample chest, thigh-gaps, legs, and nudity.
  10. Media hypocrisy and bias – see previous blogs.
  11. Interviewed people starting their answer with ‘Yeah, no, I mean’. This means ‘I have given no thought whatsoever to the question but felt the urge to blurt something to fill the gap while I actually engage my brain. And the cliché ‘Yeah, no, I mean’ was the best I could come up with”.
  12. Politicians evading the question by saying ‘the reality of the matter is’ when it really isn’t.
  13. And TONS of other things.

Why do I hate these things – and what does it have to do with The Three Resolutions?

Man is a creature endowed with four gifts. The gift of self-awareness, to know he is a man. The gift of creative imagination – to know what he wants. The gift of independent will – the creativity, ability and drive to go and get what he wants. And the gift of conscience. We can to choose whether, or not, we will behave in accordance with reasonable standards.

When I see people who know better committing the hateful acts I have listed above, I perceive that when they are doing so, they are deliberately or even carelessly failing to reach those standards. And when doing so demonstrates rudeness, sheer hypocrisy, or when endangers me or my family, I feel the urge to make my feelings plain, and because I try to be a patient individual, that urge makes me less of a person if I inadvertently act upon it.

Shouting “SCUM!” at a litter dropper is only temporarily satisfying. As is punching someone right in the mouth for being so, so stupid. It is only temporarily satisfying because the guilt arising from a failure to stand up to one’s own standards kicks in quite quickly after the immediate psychological lift of having spoken out.

That said, if we legalised that kind of immediate punishment and thus legitimised it, the guilt might disappear. Perhaps legalising a smack in the mouth for those whose laziness, arrogance or stupidity threatens us is the answer.

Tomorrow, I write to the Prime Minister!”

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