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When I was allocated a new position in the police service, I was also required to undertake an advanced driving course. Hitherto I had prided myself on being a talented driver, having tried my advanced driving test (failed twice); completed a racing driving course and done a few laps of Brands Hatch, and had a few amusing off-road type experiences. I’d even driven Land Rovers on tank courses. Over the years I’d read widely on advanced driving theory and practice and I felt I was quite skilled, even if my attitude stunk and I occasionally took the odd silly risk.

But in 2001 I went on this course, run by a ‘proper’ pursuit trained police Grade 1 Instructor, and my eyes were opened wide to new thinking, better observation skills and, one could argue, a higher expectation of what was expected of an advanced driver.

(For the purist I was an ‘intermediate’ advanced driver – not driving the full-blown Volvo T5s, BMW 535s etc. but a Volvo S40 area car. My take – the road’s the same shape and the pedals are in the same order, the rest is pursuit responsibility, familiarity with a slightly faster vehicle and even higher expectations. But traffic officers have a tendency to be a bit anal about their abilities/training so I dare not say all that out loud.)

Anyway, as a result of these higher expectations and a slightly more mature desire to comply with the new training and associated skill levels, I drove to the new system until I got to the point where I couldn’t drive the ‘old way’. My attitude still stinks a bit but the car control part is much better, as is compliance with protocols like observation skills, lane discipline, indicating, and so on.

The reason my attitude stinks is because I am very much more aware of the s**t skill levels of the ‘average’ motorist around whom I have to negotiate. The non-signaller, the ones who pull out on roundabouts in your path without signalling or accelerating swiftly enough NOT to get in the way, the lane hogger who switches his brain off on arrival in the middle lane and stays there from London to Edinburgh. And the phone user – a***holes whatever excuse they might think justifies potentially fatal consequences. You know the type – in fact, you may be one. (In which case change your attitude or get off my site! 🙂

At the same time, not driving related, my ‘high’ standard of verbal skills and the ability to write using sentences, correct grammar and punctuation means that the inability of others to do so, particularly when some of them are (on paper) cleverer than me – gets on my nerves. And the reading of Stephen Covey and Anthony Robbins on how we can reactively allow our environments to condition us to act in a certain way has made it abundantly clear to me why people use the word ‘obviously’ seven times a conversation and why teenagers say ‘like’ a lot; in fact, on holiday I heard a man use the word three times in one sentence – and that was three times in a row in one sentence!

Unfortunately, having (or at least striving to have) higher standards makes it abundantly, abundantly clear how low other people’s standards have become. Let me be clear – their standards are not necessarily low by intention (although they often are), it’s usually because they give no thought to how they are conditioned by their surroundings and the people in them, or they excuse their lowering of standards (driving being a very good and common example) because they aren’t being tested or examined any more. The lack of accountability for higher standards results in them being socially permitted to drop their standards to the common level.

Remember the Anthony Robbins experience with the US Marines I mentioned in an earlier blog? In one audio recording he described how he was asked to coach US Marines on leadership and motivation, and in doing so he was told that the men and women present were at the peak of their performance ‘lives’, and that when they left the Forces their standards slipped. When Robbins tells the story he opines that the reason their standards slip is because the expectations of the veterans’ post-service peer groups – new colleagues, friends, communities and society in general – are lower, and so the new standards displayed by those veterans are a reflection of the lowered expectations of the new peer group. In the Marines expectations were very high. Outside, they’re more ‘whatever works in the moment’.

One of the objectives of application of the First and Second Resolutions is to develop the self-discipline to behave in accordance with your higher values and to become exceptionally competent (expert?) in your chosen field of work – and competence can include competency in ‘routine’ life skills. To develop a higher sense of personal integrity as you discover what is important to you, to strive to act in accordance with those needs, and to achieve them at the highest possible level.

And that’s why it is annoying when I see what goes on around me. I see people capable of better who either don’t, or won’t, seek to behave at the higher level of competence or character. People who just let life dictate to them whether their behaviour is acceptable, convenient, just enough or even dangerous. Instead of taking action to make sure that they dictate to life what their standards are and how they will keep acting in their accord.

I’m still trying – are you?


Blog Part

I was rather pleased to discover that  I lost 6lbs this week, which means I lost the holiday weight gain (as expected) and a further 2lbs as well, meaning that I am now only 2lbs above my 2009 Half Marathon weight. That means I am ‘only’ 7lbs behind my lead measure of 210lbs by tomorrow (September 1st), and will hopefully be back on track by the 1st of October. At worst, I’ll be at target weight by Christmas provided I continue losing weight at the planned rate.

The running continues, although I was remiss twice this week – I still did the 4 runs I promised myself I would do every week in acknowledgment that occasionally life intervenes in your plan.