The first of Covey’s Seven Habits, Be Proactive, is based on the principle that as human beings we are not the result of nature or nurture, unless we choose to be either deliberately or by default. The proposal is that as we are sentient beings who can think about what we think about, we are capable of making conscious choices that can overcome either nature or nurture. We can choose differently. We can make a conscious choice in the gap between stimulus and response.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s article. As I am now well versed in the theory of the principle of choice, I have become shockingly aware of the apparent inability or unwillingness of others to NOT be influenced by their peers, environment or even television. They unconsciously follow what others are doing, and here is my proof. It is my list of observed behaviours which I believe demonstrate that intelligent human beings are no longer leading – they are being led, and they are letting it happen.

Speech patterns. We have all seen the propensity for yoofs to say ‘like’ every third word, possibly the result of copying their anti-heroes from US television. But here are some newer examples of conditioned speech.

The demise of the letter T. Professional speakers – and by this I mean politicians and television presenters – seem to have forgotten how to pronounce this letter at the end of words. Most people seem unable, when asking a question with a yes or no answer, to stop at the appropriate point, instead going on to add ‘or’ – and then no alternative. “Are you going to the shops, or?” “Are you making the tea, or?” Or is ‘or’ how you pronounce ‘?’ …?

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”.

A new one is to start answers with the word ‘So’, even though the comment is unconnected to any other. “Tell us about your day, results in the answer, “So I was going to work……” It’s what I call the ‘Redundant So’, the absence of which would change the sentence not one iota. Worst of all – PEOPLE ARE NOW ROUTINELY STARTING WRITTEN SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS WITH IT!!! On LinkedIn, the ‘home of the professional. (Sigh.)

Other social media ‘originality blindness’ includes the infinitely boring post of a picture of one’s dinner or drink, allied to ‘Don’t mind if I do’ or ‘Rude not to’.

Now, to television. The X-Factor – the most blindly celebrated Karaoke competition, ever. And why have professionals – professionals – all taken to wearing suit jackets but no tie when being interviewed by tie-wearing presenters on the news channels? Are they TOLD not to wear a tie or do they blindly think it just looks ‘hip’, like ‘one of the people’ because they haven’t ‘gone legit, man’? As for wearing baseball caps backwards – it was funny when Will Smith did it. There’s a peak on the FRONT for a reason.

Next, to the music industry. We now suffer interminable introductions during which the singer ‘ooooh-oooohs’ or ‘aaaah-aaaahs’ waiting for the first line to be sung. Not sure I ever heard Sinatra, Presley, Meatloaf or any other true talents warble unnecessarily. Just learn to hit the right note when the lyrics START!

And there’s driving – suddenly, the idiots have legitimised turning right from the left lane on a roundabout, and turning left from the right lane; using the mobile phone because ‘everyone does it’; driving with one finger on the wheel, ‘cause it looks cool; and other dangerous behaviours committed because they saw someone else do it and they didn’t die.

Why do I hate these things?

“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey taught me this: Man/Woman is a creature endowed with four gifts. The gift of self-awareness, to know he or she is human. The gift of creative imagination – to know what he or she wants. The gift of independent will – to go and get what he or she 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 or should know better, deliberately or even carelessly fail to reach even the most moderate of standards or expectations, (and particularly when doing so demonstrates sheer hypocrisy or endangers me or my family), I feel the urge to make my feelings plain, and because I try to be patient, that urge makes me less of a person if I act upon it.

So shouting “scum!” at a litter dropper is only temporarily satisfying. As is punching someone right in the mouth for being so, so stupid. That said, if we legalised that kind of immediate punishment, the guilt would disappear. Perhaps legalising a smack in the mouth for those whose stupidity threatens us is the answer.

Tomorrow, I write to Boris!