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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.” Stephen R Covey

Despite the uninformed dismissiveness of friends and foe I have, for the past 20-odd years, been an advocate of the 7 Habits ‘philosophy’ – not a good word but it’s short. People who deride the awfully-named ‘self-help’ genre and therefore who have never taken a moment to understand it, suggest that the field, and the 7 Habits book in particular, have the intention of restricting my (their) thinking. Of course, some fields like Scientology and cults do just that, but the essential difference between what my friends think and the actuality is this: the 7 Habits do not in any way tell you what to think. What it does is tell you is that you can think, and provides a framework you can apply to thinking. But what you think is entirely up to you.

I write this week’s blog following the election of The Donald to the Presidency of the USA. Last night, following (arguably) anti-democratic and violent protests by people deriding ‘hate politics’ – the irony escapes them – I watched a YouTube vignette you can see here (pardon the ad). In it, the speaker tells the politicians that the reason DT was elected was because the people had realised that the ‘liberal elite’ (read socialists-with-a-small-s and their supporters) had been telling us what we can think, and what we can say, for so long that the electorate said “enough!”. He suggested that attacks on those who held and proffered thoughts other than the politically-correct had given rise to a backlash. People were being viciously and loudly attacked for having the temerity to hold and verbalise a different opinion for so long, that they spoke out in the ballot box. They voted, “STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO THINK!”

I agree. I suspect that the (quote Fox News, for a laugh) the ‘mainstream liberal media’ had spent so much time attacking DT that ‘the people’ decided to stop being told what to think, and to ‘think’ and therefore ‘do’ the opposite, perhaps out of spite for the media. I don’t know if this is so, but as the guy who sometimes likes the underdog to win, this constant ‘look what he did!’ approach just pushes me to think the opposite. I suspect the US electorate felt the same.

Which takes me to the quote and tone of this post.

Contrary to the political elite’s apparent view, I DO have the choice on what to think. Habit 1 is about being proactive and realising there IS a choice, and I can use a lot of things to make that choice.

And if I am left alone to think it WITHOUT being attacked for thinking things, eventually I can use my self-awareness, independent will, creative imagination and conscience to decide what is right and what is wrong, for myself.

I don’t need to be lectured, I need to be informed and encouraged. I don’t need to be attacked, I need evidence. I don’t need to be shouted down, I need to be heard. And above all, to hear you I need to know that YOU understand what you are saying and that it is objective, that it is not just a dogmatic ideology (well-meant or not), one which you have not objectively tested but to which you slavishly adhere.

That’s the odd reason why, even though I don’t like Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, I can respect him because he truly believes them, while I cannot respect Diane Abbott because she espouses socialism and quality education for all while sending her own kids to private school.

I will question the ‘thinking ability’ of anyone who is slavishly adherent to a ‘side’ in politics. And I will listen to anyone who is willing to change their mind. For example, I ‘hated’ UK gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell for a long time – not because he was gay but because of his confrontational tactics. But I saw him last week defending the right of Irish bakers NOT to be forced by the Irish courts to contravene their values in wanting to not bake a pro-gay marriage cake. That demonstrated thinking. Quality thinking. I can now respect, even admire him.

Use the gap – use your brain. Don’t be told what to think. Think properly, so that you can be sure that what you think is right.