A couple of the core messages of the book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” (McChesney, Covey and Huling, Simon and Schuster, 2012) is that first of all, people and organisations who want to achieve success should focus on what they call Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) and secondly, that they should not have more than three of those goals.
For most organisations the idea of achieving ‘just’ three goals would appear to be counter-intuitive, I know, but it’s really in the drafting of what the organisational goals should be, that would allow multiple directions to be taken towards achieving the same three ends: by multiple departments and by a multitude of teams and individuals. The idea is that once the organisation has set its three carefully drafted goals, the organisation/departments/teams/people direct their activities towards executing their part in achieving them. Got it?
The concept works for individuals, too. At the start of the year, as I have done for the past ten or so, I used the Best Year Yet® process set myself about ten goals. Then, every year, reality kicked in and once ‘a’ goal was achieved I’d replace it with another. Or, more often, I’d change my mind about an expensive or difficult goal and delete it. 2021 was a cracking year – I did a lot of the things I wanted to do. So the idea works.
However, there were still some goals which I set every year – and manifestly fail to achieve. Yes, you’ve guessed them correctly – weight loss and physical fitness goals. As usual, these were part of the ten I set in anticipation of the start of the New Year. And, as usual, by the middle of January I realised that I wasn’t doing anything about them.
Cue WIG thinking.
I deleted many of the goals and set just three. Lose the poundage (again), get Cycle Fit, and write another book. Just three WIGs.
Every day, I plan so that those three goals will get the focus that their hoped-for and worked-for achievement demands. Everything else – and I mean everything, including this blog – gets fitted in around the activities that address those goals. I’m doing this blog during the pre-exercise session; I’ll do some training at the planned time, then settle down while I consider exactly what the next book will be. And then, and only then, will I do any reading, chillin’, administerial tasks, etc.
(To be honest, this blog relates to my writing goals, too, so is technically counted within the WIG, as will be the continued practice of public speaking.)
One side benefit of this approach is this – I no longer feel guilty about the things I don’t do that aren’t related to the Big Three.
At the end of my day I think to myself, “So I didn’t wash the car. So I watched two episodes of something. So I didn’t go shopping. Big Deal.
I trained hard. I ate wisely. And I gave due consideration to my writing.
Doing that, I know I’ll be lighter, fitter, wiser and, most importantly, happier than I have been since my last blog.”
≈ Comments Off on Conscience – the Key to Success.
In First Things First, Stephen R Covey asked the question (sic) “How can we implement the choice to be congruent in life – to have greater personal integrity?”
How often do you sit there, trying to decide whether or not to do something that you know will be good for you, but which you know will be hard? How often do you find yourself rationalising the easier option? I know I do that. I repeatedly commit to doing some exercise every morning, but when the alarm goes off I enter into analysis mode: what’s the temperature/weather like? Can I get away with not doing it, today? Is it more likely that I can exercise later?
Anything to avoid exercising now.
Covey’s solution to this lack of integrity is to consider and apply a three-step, self-analysing process.
First, Ask with Intent. To quote Covey, this is to “ask our conscience, not out of curiosity, but out of a commitment to act based on the wisdom of the heart.” You see he knew, as do I and as do you, that there is often only one, true, conscience-derived answer to the question we are asking of ourselves. And it is all too frequently the answer that we don’t want to hear. The Hard Choice. So, when you truly ask your conscience for guidance, it will always tell you what you, yourself have instructed it to tell you. The answer you don’t want. The one that will serve you best of all.
But finding the answer to the question you are asking of yourself may require deeper thought, which Covey admits. So further questions may be asked, in addition to or in lieu of the first. They are:
“Is this in my Circle of Influence?” Can you actually take action, or are other influences going to affect your decision? It happens. You can’t ride a bike in a snowstorm. Do you even have a bike?
“Is it in my Centre of Focus?” This question, which relates to the tinier circle at the centre of your Circle of Influence and which was only written about in First Things First, can be answered with your mission in mind. Is it the best thing to be doing or is there something better that will move you closer to your Primary Objective?
If the answer to those questions is No, or even Yes No, then your integrity is intact if you choose the more objective-focused action instead of the one you don’t want to take. But only the true answer works that way – any other answer is procrastination.
In any case, the second process is Listen Without Excuse. Maybe following this advice answers those mini-questions already mentioned above, but what Covey means is that you don’t ask the question, only to start the excuse-making so often associated with taking the easy way out. As he puts it, “If we choose the first option, we feel peaceful. If we feel the second option, we feel disharmony and tension.”
This may seem counter-intuitive, in the moment. If we take the easy option, the stress of acting on the harder option goes away – for all of a few moments. Then we feel the guilt. Taking the first option creates immediate tension – which may go away once we start acting on the Hard Choice, and which certainly dissipates when we complete what it was we were trying to avoid.
The last element of the process reads Act with Courage. Covey writes not of acts of extreme bravery, but courageous acts taken in the gap between stimulus and response. In this context, it means acting on the better (harder) choice made between the ‘I don’t want to’ stimulus and the ‘I wish I had’ response that gets you nowhere. It means acting in the knowledge that acting on the Hard Choice is routinely more self-serving (in a good way) than delaying or failing to take that action.
In a sense, the whole chapter in First Things First, which is entitled “Integrity in the Moment of Choice, represents the key to the difference between failing in your objectives, and succeeding. It reflects the advice provided with less depth, but equal accuracy, in any personal development book you read. It identifies the key difference between a life of mediocrity and one that is values-driven, principle-centred and truly successful.
If I was to summarise this article in a few words, I could only repeat my interpretation of it, as already stated within these paragraphs. I suggest that when you ask yourself if you are going to Act with Integrity in the moment, and in doing so behave in compliance with your own conscience, then it is:
Make the Hard Choice.
(Which, coincidentally, is in keeping with the First Resolution. )
An interesting quote, today, from Covey’s ‘Principle Centred Leadership, made me think. It read:
“One common reactive pattern is to live life in value-based compartments, where our behaviour is largely the product of expectations built in to certain roles: spouse, parent, child, business executive, community leader, and so on. Because each of these compartments carries its own value system, reactive people often find themselves trying to meet conflicting expectations and living by differing values according to the role or the environment they are in at any particular time.” (Covey, Stephen R.. Principle-Centred Leadership (p. 20). Rosetta Books. Kindle Edition.)
Years ago, when I was a serving officer, I considered myself to be quite competent. Something would happen and I would quite easily approach and deal with it using my training and experience. Then, one day, something happened to one of my kids – and I was completely lost. I called a colleague, who dealt with it very well indeed, but I remember thinking, afterwards, “Why didn’t I do that?”
And, reading the above quote, I think I might have an inkling as to why. I was in Parent/Daughter mode, and applied a different kind of thinking than I would have, if I’d gone into Policeman/Victim mode – which was more objective, less emotionally involved. In that moment, I was probably applying a different role, and subsequently different values.
Which was odd, because I believe that the values we have are applied universally to ‘us’, and that experience suggested otherwise. It suggests that look at our Roles through different, role-related spectacles, and act accordingly. The question is,
Is that the right way to live?
It is certainly a common way to love, as shown by athletes with drinking problems, politicians who seem to be honest but then get caught out, married people who excuse one-night stands with strangers when out on business junkets – the ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’ perspective.
For me, the ideal is that you/we have ONE set of personal values or Unifying Principles which apply whatever we are doing. The only ‘but’ being that some values may never apply in particular roles, although I am at a loss to conjure up an example for the sake of illustration. I suppose (looking at my own) a value of ‘Be an Intellectual’ might not really apply to a parenting role, except to the degree that role-modelling intellectualism may benefit a child. ‘Be organised in the home’ has little to do with work – except you tend to be more organised at work than you do at home. And role-modelling organisation benefits a messy child.
Looking at those ‘buts’, I think I’m still plumping for Values applying all the time because for every role I can think of, one of my values applies if I think about it deeply enough.
It reflects what Ghandi said. “A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole.” Which addressed people who lacked integrity and misbehaved in some fashion, but also supports the idea that our values apply universally, not on a role-by-role basis.
Are you who you are all of the time?
I’m trying to be. And while it isn’t easy it must be worth it. Ask my kids.
For more on this subject, buy my book at AMAZON, available in Kindle or paperback.
This week I have been mostly taken by a concept that the ‘better’ coaching writers espouse as a specific, rather than ‘work it out for yourself’ idea. The oldest writing I find about this is from the 1930s in the name of Napoleon Hill. It was later reframed in 1989 by Stephen Covey, and Jack Canfield provides the same overarching advice in his 2005 book “The Success Principles”. It is an idea that underpins any level of success in business and personal relationships, and without it everything else fails.
Napoleon Hill, paraphrased it thus: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Covey calls it ‘Be Proactive’ and Canfield calls it ‘Take 100% Responsibility.’ All have the same meaning.
They mean that in order for things to happen, it’s all down to you. You either do it, or you cause it to come about.
I have taught this in personal development classes and often met resistance. It was understandable: in reality, other people and circumstances do have an influence on what we do. In truth, our success relies on us making ourselves relevant, and it relies on us dealing with those external influences. Which is where the resistance loses the argument.
Whatever happens, we have a choice. That choice is to deal with the circumstance, fight it, or accept it. As Covey described it, we have Direct, Indirect, or No Control over what happens to us. Direct Control means we can deal with it ourselves, and overcome the challenge. Indirect Control means either we deal with it in concert with other people, or we nudge it in the direction we wish to go, adapting as we do so. No Control means we smilingly accept it, rather than waste time and emotion fighting the insurmountable.
But we aren’t only talking about severe challenge. We are also talking about little things, small annoyances. I can’t tell you how much emotional effort I find myself putting into the avoidance of a two-minute annoyance! This morning I have hoovered, dusted, stocked, emptied and sorted multiple little things that really have always been someone else’s responsibility. But today, I chose responsibility and it’s all been done.
Have I gone from serious stuff to trivialities? Maybe.
But how about you? What things are you avoiding because they are annoying, in the knowledge that the person responsible is you – but you really don’t want to do them? And is ‘not doing them’ creating the result you want to achieve?
Here’s an example. I am an introvert. I’m reluctant to mix. I have found that most people are: when a group of strangers assemble, there is abundant awkwardness until – I start the conversation and introductions. Me. Shy bloke. Until I, or someone like me, starts the mixing off, it’s awfully quiet. I take 100% (etc.) for communication.
Other things: Paperwork. Cleaning. Maintenance. Shopping. ‘That’ conversation’. All yuk jobs, but all necessary for a smoother existence. All or some of which are things which you think you have delegated, but which the delegate ain’t doing.
Of course, I haven’t yet mentioned the moral victory when you make it plain that you’ve briefly, and pointedly, taken responsibility for someone else’s work. Rub it in their faces. Let it be known far and wide.
Sometimes, the mantra ‘I will take 100% Responsibility’ means doing the ‘thing’ so that you can move on from it, and move closer to your desired outcome. Even if that ‘thing’ just means clearing the dishes from the work surfaces you won’t need for three hours – but will now be clean and ready when you get there.
Take charge of as much as possible. Even if you don’t want to do it – do it.
Today, I want to write about objectivity. Objectivity is a discipline, and one that is not easy to execute because we are all biased by our experiences, upbringing and value systems. What we see, we see through a lens that has been fogged to some degree, unless we occasionally choose to clean it in an effort to ensure that some clarity is possible. I raise this issue because what I see going on around the world is, it appears to me, the result of deliberate fogging of lenses by interest groups that have become so powerful because of social media that we risk going down a path that could so easily be avoided if we just asked better questions when ‘facts’ are trotted out for us to gullibly accept.
I heard a statistic the other day. The speaker (a socialist) was upset that 1 in 5 children lived below the poverty line. I thought, “Is that possible? That would require 8 houses in my street to be ‘in poverty’, and for every street that had no poverty there would have to be streets with massively more than one in five.
Of course, if you conclude that children don’t earn any money, and that relative poverty is defined as poverty created when people earn less than 50% of the average wage, then that statement could be true – but the kids weren’t necessarily poor or living in a poor household.
Another one – According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2020, an estimated 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years (2.3 million) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. Extrapolated, that means that domestic violence takes place in two houses in my street, or more in other streets. Or is it more likely that the same victims are being abused by the same perpetrators and this isn’t reflected in that figure? A third – and a remarkably consistent one – is that 250,000 people go missing from home annually. When I was a cop, the same girl went missing from a children’s home every day – are those separately counted, or is each a separately counted incident?
Of course, I don’t know. I do know that figures can be warped; as I say, I was a copper and crime figures – well, least said, soonest amended. The COVID stats are hilariously warped – crushed by rocks but died within 28 days of a positive covid test? Boom, another covid death. And more justification for lockdowns and other restrictions on freedom. (The Sue Grey Report came out yesterday. Ironic.)
So the discipline I invite people to consider is this: to question what you are told, and not blindly accept everything you hear. I say this because I see the anger, ire, combativeness and hatred created by facts that simply aren’t yet verified.
This week, a child reported he’d been racially abused, chased, and lost a finger having climbed a fence to escape. I don’t want that to be true – the thought of kids that age being racist in 2022 is sad. If it is true, let punishment follow. But years of child abuse input (and some personal experiences) state that a child should not be interviewed by untrained staff, nor asked repeatedly what happened, because of the risk of accidental embellishment if they feel they’re being challenged.
Yet the press, celebdom and interest groups have all had their bandwagon launched, and statements have been demanded and occasionally delivered from those in authority, all of whom are angry and incensed – before any police investigation has even started. And all of them are supposed to be intellectual and objective. Their bandwagon behaviour suggests otherwise. It means either they’re not astute enough to wait for the facts to be fully provided (bad) or it suits their agenda to spout (really bad and malevolent).
So my plea today is to wait. Use the gap between stimulus and response to decide if you have enough data to believe what is being put to you.
Because that’s exactly what you’d hope would happen if YOU were the subject of conjecture, wouldn’t you?
Like many of you I am an unremarkable person. That sounds modest, but I mean it in the sense that I am no celebrity – I am just one of millions of people who do their ‘thing’ on a daily basis, and that ‘thing’ is fairly normal, certainly to those in the same industry and related fields. Such people tell stories to each other and never consider whether, or how much, people outside their fields will find their lives interesting. But we all have a story to tell.
Recently it occurred to me that as much as I loved and respected my father, and we had a very good relationship, my knowledge of who he was “pre-DC” was lacking. I knew he served in WWII as an aircraft mechanic on a Typhoon squadron, and I knew he’d been an electrical engineer with a power supplier until he retired. I had heard a couple of amusing stories, but he died many years ago and I realise I knew less than I should.
I have five beautiful grandchildren. I had my own kids when we were young and they pretty much experienced a lot of my policing life with me, but none of them know the full story. So I decided to write an autobiography. I knew I had a few funny stories to tell and I figured they might find them amusing. So I began. I am 100 pages of A4 in, and I am only up to 1990 – 28 years old. Most of what I have written is based on memory and from before I kept a real diary, so the remaining 32 years are going to fill a lot more pages because i am diarised up the wazoo. And every memory disclosed sparks another tale, regardless of the records, so I keep having to go back and fill an older chapter with a new tale of derring-do – or embarrassment.
And I realised that this is not just an ego-trip – it’s my legacy. Every story can, in some way, provide a life lesson to my descendants.
People tend to provide life lessons when a situation demands, but wouldn’t it always be better to provide the lessons in advance of the challenges they can solve?
This book – which I will publish on Amazon but only so that I can give hard copies to my family, you can ignore it if you want! – will be an opportunity to give my kids the wisdom it took me 60 years to learn. Yes, The Three Resolutions book contains my philosophy on life from which they can learn, but the autobiography will be the background detail as to why I needed them!
My suggestion this week, therefore, is that you consider writing down your own life story so that those who you love, and will love, and who will wonder who you are and what you did, won’t have to listen to vague recollections of others – they can have a first-hand account.
This week, I’d like to take an opportunity to tell you more about my book “The Way: Integrity on Purpose.”
In 2014 I self-published ‘The Three Resolutions’, an effort to expand upon Stephen Covey’s own writing under that title, which was a small chapter in his book ‘Principle-Centred Leadership’. The chapter described how making three commitments could make quantum improvements in an individual’s life, specifically in three areas. The areas were the physical self in terms of the wellbeing of the body; the ‘mental’ self in terms of character and competence; and the spiritual self in terms of contribution and service to others. The commitments were to overcome appetites and passions through the application of self-discipline and self-denial; overcome pretentions and pride through becoming a person of good character, and of great professional competence; and to overcome unbridled ambition and aspiration through a focus outside oneself.
I expanded on the concepts and publicly committed to a set of rules, values and a personal mission statement that reflected those headings. In many ways I succeeded in executing to a degree, but I felt that I wasn’t as compliant with my intentions as I could or should have been. Asking myself why, and considering the self-generated feedback that resulted, I concluded that there were four reasons why I, and many others, don’t feel as though our level of compliance with our mission statements is as high as we would like.
This realisation led me to consider the reasons for this, and how we could go about addressing the gap between desire and execution in living our personal mission statement; or, for the purposes of this book, living The Way.
First, though, I want to make one clear statement.
When I use the expression ‘The Way’ I am not saying there is only one ‘way’.
When I use the expression ‘The Way’ I am talking about what you will discover, in this book and through its study, is YOUR ‘Way’. Not mine, yours. This book isn’t about moralising and dictating what you should think, feel and do. I may make some suggestions, but the focus is intended to be on assisting the reader to discover his or her own Way, not just reproduce people who believe in mine. The objective is to help you design your better way of living, and for me to redesign and recommit to mine. But yours and mine will be different, either to some small degree if we are alike in some way, or by a huge difference if your values are hugely different to mine.
I concluded that there is only one true route to personal success. It’s a straightforward formula of four phases. They are:
Find the Way
Learn the Way
Live the Way
Teach the Way
These four phases systematically summarise a strategy for living. The system reflects the identification, learning and application process, that process which we all undertake when learning to live, to work, to earn, to relate to others, to manage – everything. They embody all the skills we need to have and to demonstrate in our efforts to live ‘properly’. They also reflect those areas where, if we are not careful, we will act badly.
This system parallels any development process undertaken anywhere, by anyone, for any purpose. It is how a professional learns; it is how a religion becomes ingrained into an adherent to that religion; it is how a family member learns to become a contributor to that family. The reason that such a system works is because it is neutral. It is a principle in action. It is the principle of progression, of starting out as a novice with the aim of becoming a master.
I believe that the route to living your Way is taken through these four steps. The steps are progressive, and they involve properly and fully identifying the Way, studying in greater detail about how the Way can be executed, then living in such a fashion as to clearly be in congruence with the Way, and finally to reinforce your Way by teaching it.
In brief, the four elements of The Way are expanded thus:
Find the Way
To quote Covey, the first challenges we face when deciding The Way is that we are not sure who we are, and where we want to go. The first part of the book is therefore intended to help you decide what values you have or want to have, the associated behaviours you believe will help you comply with those values, and writing them down so that you, yourself, clearly understand them.
Learn the Way
The second challenge, once we have put our fingers on who we want to be and where we want to go, is to learn how to do so. This section will be about studying and committing to the behaviours that serve execution of The Way.
Live the Way
Having overcome the first two challenges, there remain still further challenges to living the Way.
The first is that we do not realise that we are compliant because we don’t feel as though we are ‘doing’ our mission all of the time. Life gets in our way in the sense that it is hard to consider yourself ‘carrying out your mission’ when you are filling the dishwasher. Life is full of little routines that have to be done but aren’t, well, exciting.
The second reason for ineffective application of The Way that we have identified is inextricably linked to the first. As our lives are littered with unexciting, routine, non-mission projects, tasks and other activities, we fail to properly and routinely recognise opportunities to execute on our missions. For example, part of my own mission is to be patient with others. Imagine a day cluttered with runs to the shops, commuting in traffic jams, banking and managing money – then something jumps at you and interrupts you and in that second you react impatiently, because you haven’t seen, in the clutter, that opportunity to be what you want to be. The third part of the book is intended to help you overcome the challenges and live The Way – the way that you want to.
Teach the Way
And one way of living The Way is to spend a lot of time teaching it. Covey counselled participants at his many events that the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. He would ‘volunteer’ random attendees and tell them he was about to teach something that they would have to repeat to other participants. Then he would point out to those others that his ‘volunteers’ had just pricked up their ears and picked up their pens – they were now listening because they knew they had to understand what they were about to teach. The fourth part of the book will advise you on how to do this.
To summarise, then, the objective of this book is to
Help the student identify the values, disciplines and objectives for their future success in life.
Help the student find the motivation to learn the precise definition of those values so that they are content they reflect their true desires. And then to master that understanding.
Help the student master and execute the behaviours and actions needed to live in accordance with the values they themselves have identified in the first two parts.
Encourage the student to teach others, with the objectives of both spreading the word and ingraining their own improved mastery of their chosen path.
I hope you take the opportunity to get a copy, which is available at Amazon through THIS LINK and is as much a bargain of a paperback as I could make it!
There’s an old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. It’s a maxim with validity, and essentially speaks for itself, but I sometimes feel as though the message has still to get through because it’s a metaphor. Sometimes metaphors need to be more specific, which kind of undermines their purpose but some people need to be spoon fed, and sometimes those people include me.
So here’s my amendment.
“Teach a man to pass an exam, and he passes the exam. Teach a man the ability to analyse, to reason, to interpret, to question and even challenge, and you create a leader.”
(Which is something I wish University administrators and educators would return to understanding in the way they used to when graduates knew more than ‘just’ the content of their thesis.)
Let me give an example of how that doesn’t happen. In my years as a copper, I concluded that a lot of the training we received was designed to tell us ‘what was what’ and to accept the wisdom of our trainers. In fairness to some trainers, they were just given material and told, “Teach this.” I remember being trained about the new surveillance laws in 2000 and walking away convinced I couldn’t do any active police work, so bad was the explanation of the law. Later, I was engaged in an argument with a trainer over another misunderstood process, and I have always been bemused by how data protection legislation continues to be taught by threat, rather than as a relatively straight-forward concept.
You see, people were seeing only the overall objective, but never researching deeply enough to understand the details – which, more often than not, made life easier than their poor understanding allowed. They worked on a ‘you can’t do that’ basis instead of finding out what you could do.
They’d been given a fish, but not taught how to fish.
Giving fish is how young people seem to be learning, these days. Ideologies proliferate without question, which is troubling. Blind obeisance to the prevailing wisdom is causing old, practically settled identity politics to rear its ugly head again, because ideologues shout louder than people who challenge those ides with analysis, research, considered reasoning, appropriate questions and robust challenge (see what I did there?). The worst example is Critical Race Theory, which appears to be a form of reverse-racism, in that three or four decades after the question was settled in principal (it will never be settled in universal practice, fact of life), now those who accepted the responsibility for overcoming all the isms – and arguably the belated credit for doing so – are now expected to account for their guilt for offence caused a hundred years or more ago. Apparently, me, born 1961, must accept guilt for 18th century slavery despite the fact that me, born 1961, never knowingly owned or trafficked a slave.
It’s divisive, and the shouty side is trying to stifle debate either because it has no reasoned argument, or because there is a terrifying motive behind it. In other words, I believe that the unintended consequences of their violent demand for tolerance will be even more intolerant division. They must actually want that, and we’ll all have to pick our side. (And by the way, their leaders never put their heads above the parapet, like most Marxist generalissimos.)
Well done, educators. You’ve fed our kids poisonous fish, stifled challenge, invented reason, and now the rest of us are reaping the rewards of your stupidity. Or, at best, you’ve sat by and let it happen.
It’s not too late. You can stop imposing your ideas on the young and, instead, debate with them. If your ideas are valid, then they will stand. If not, they should die. If you’re quiet, stand up and be counted.
Doing that will take character and competence. And it’s the best service you could ever provide.
In conclusion, let me put it this way – an intellectual argument for CRT is the same as an intellectual argument for that rectangular pile of concrete blocks in the Tate gallery.
What do you do about the exercise of self-discipline – the First Resolution – when you’re suffering from a chronic illness? When you’re ill, being disciplined is the hardest thing of all to do.
Injury is inconvenient, but unless it’s particularly catastrophic, an ‘average’ injury seems less mentally stressful because you conceive of an end date. You usually know that your body will repair itself. Like injury, most illnesses are the same – you know that ‘this too, shall pass’ unless your diagnosis reveals something a little more challenging.
What do you do when your diagnosis tells you that what you’re experiencing isn’t going away any time soon, is manageable but not evidently curable, and is causing constant discomfort?
When feeling chronic pain, two personal characteristics tend to go walkies.
First, it’s easy to find yourself venting on other people, failing to come through on commitments, lowering your standards and just feeling miserable. Really easy. Ask my wife. Secondly, it means that exercising self-discipline becomes even harder than usual.
But if you value your good character, you choose otherwise. You recognise your condition for what it is – yours, and yours alone. You can ask for help from others, but you are responsible for accepting or ignoring that advice, or for accepting or avoiding their help. You decide whether to act upon or be acted upon, by whatever it is that ails thee. It also means that you should only abandon the exercise of self-discipline if it is truly too onerous because of the condition. If it isn’t, you need to avoid using it as an excuse.
That choice is easy for people of character, but acting on that choice requires reversion to the practices of the First Resolution, specifically being disciplined enough to do what is required to deal with the condition and the emotions that come with it, and continuing to live a disciplined life. All while denying yourself the soft option of attacking those who have no responsibility whatsoever for your illness.
No, not easy.
If you are suffering from a chronic, painful condition, remember that those you love are a potential support, but you want them to give that support freely – it’s not something to be demanded from them. (I detest news reports when people ‘demand’ something from government – try asking nicely and using a convincing argument rather than expecting other people and organisations to dance to – and pay for – your admittedly painful tune.)
They will give it freely, even when you don’t want to hear it, which is the danger moment. The moment when you reactively slap them down because you KNOW that already. But the real reason you slap them down is – you aren’t doing what you know. But even though you’re to blame, in the moment you snap, it’s ‘their fault’.
Character means being proactive with chronic illness. It means accepting the reality of your own situation, taking responsibility for dealing with it, fighting it in a disciplined way, and acknowledging that any help that is offered is well intended and with a serving of love attached.
There is a lot of material in the personal development sector that promotes the setting of goals. It’s a standard theme, which makes perfect sense because you can’t develop yourself in a particular direction unless you know what your destination actually is.
Numerically, there are a LOT of those books. Also numerically, there are fewer books that promote the idea that your goals should be, as far as is possible (given the reality of work impositions which your employer would really like you to consider as important outcomes), aligned with your personal value system.
There are millions of books on relationships. Some ethical, some manipulative. There are those which instruct you how to improve a loving, compassionate and giving relationship with someone important to you, and at the other end of the ethical scale there are books that tell you how to make people do what you want them to do for you, regardless of their own interests. We don’t like those, do we?
But in my (admittedly limited) experience I can think of only one that truly combines advice on how to set goals that align with your personal values AND which take into account the fact that what you want to do involves and affects other people. In other words, one book that asks the values-directed goal-setting reader to consider their relationships as part of the planning equation.
The book is Stephen Covey et al’s 1994 classic “First Things First”, and it dedicates a lot of its pages to ensuring that the reader properly considers their important relationships, and compassion for others, as part of their planning and executing of their lives. There are 43 pages alone under the heading ‘First Things First Together’, but the tone of the entire book is one that says, “Everything we do, we do with, for or because of others.” It’s all very well having the drive to get what it is you desire – but this is the only book I have read (on time management/event control) that reminds us that relationships are more important than achievement.
Which is not to say that I have ever mastered that idea. Far from it. I have spent many a day frustrated that ‘someone’ is getting in the way of my plan by being late, letting me down, not performing well, or being the other half of a misunderstanding. Like you, I get the hump with other people.
First Things First was the first Covey book I read, because I was exploring the concept of time management for work at the time I found it. But despite my generic impatience with other people getting in ‘my’ way, it spoke to me. It spoke to me so much that I have subsequently explored everything Covey ever wrote (to an embarrassing degree, to be frank). Me! Mister Miserable, Mister Impatient, Mr Self-Absorbed was impressed by a book, the tone of which was about recognising and respecting other people in personal and professional planning.
So impressed that I taught it, gifted it and promoted it. Some will listen, some will not. C’est la vie.
But if you have an inkling to learn time management AND you love, respect, and wish to take into account the needs of, other people, this is the book you want.
Make it your next personal development purchase.
(And while it might not have a big section on e-mails, be mindful that this is about the mind-set, attitude towards, and execution of life and work, not how to use a hammer that has its uses but isn’t applied to everything. There are lots of books about emails, too.)
You can get it through THIS LINK. (I suggest you don’t buy the audio book as it is too heavily abridged.)