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. )
I’m tired. Not having properly trained on my road bike for this year, I went out last Sunday with friends and rode 56 miles. It was evident fairly early on that I was lagging behind, although in my defence I was following a friend who’d just completed a two-day, 60/40 mile ride up the Marmotte in the Alps. In fairness, then, he was much better prepared for the day than me.
But that was four days ago, and I’m still tired. So what, I hear you ask?
Being tired is no excuse for being lazy. It is tempting to give a task less than you would if you were feeling hale and hearty, but doing that serves no-one. As I sat at my desk preparing to write this blog I was soooo tempted to put it off until I felt better or, failing that, to just look up an old entry and regurgitate that, instead. But you’d have not learned anything new – well, when I say ‘learned’ and ‘new’, perhaps I’m looking more towards providing a new perspective on old learning.
And I wouldn’t have ‘got better’ in the competency sense. Added to that, perhaps my conscience would have screamed at me.
Being tired is only an excuse – nay, reason – for taking longer to do a job. The reality of personal development is that people do get tired, they do lose their sense of motivation, they are affected by moods and circumstances. Neither of which excuse largesse, but they will certainly affect performance.
But how big an effect those influences have on performance, is up to the performer.
Making the proactive choice to put in the effort required to do the better job is key. Deciding to perform at the required level – even at the highest possible level – is the first step to overcoming the drag created by fatigue. It might not be the only step, I admit. If the task to be done is a physical task, then the effect of fatigue will be more obvious and impactive than if the task to be done requires a mental approach more than a muscular one.
But if you’re thinking “I don’t really want to do this,” then the answer is to decide that you will, and to decide that you will do it to the best of your ability even if it takes a little longer than it usually does.
And if you’re experience is the same as the one I’ve just had in writing this blog after thinking about whether or not I can be bothered to do it at all, you may well find that it didn’t take as much time or effort as your brain initially calculated it would.
Because 10 minutes ago I was too tired. Now, my work here is done. Including a review and an edit and posting onto this website. Ten minutes from ‘Not Today’ until ‘Done’.
Do you have days/jobs like that? Days when you just can’t get started because you are tired? Make the decision that YOU are in charge, not your emotions.
And as a bonus, here’s another tip for when you have started but are flagging. It’s one I used when I was trying to keep up with the King of the Mountains.
SEAL Team trainers have discovered that when a candidate has ‘had enough’, the successful candidates can still find another 40% – forty percent – energy left, if they just dig deep and find it. On my bike, really feeling the fatigue from about 35 miles in and knowing I had 20+ left to go, I just reminded myself that if I wanted it, the energy was there. I knew I’d feel it later, but my body would recover to a better base level afterwards. (Hopefully, soon!)
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?
When you have something to do that involves a long wait, what’s your plan? Are you an ‘unlimited coffee’ drinking Wetherspoons telly reader (because the sound’s off and the subtitles are behind the speaker)? Do you search the local shops with no intention of buying anything? Do you manically find some urgent task that you might just progress if the opportunity arises and can be taken? Or do you just chill?
Yesterday, I had a car serviced by a friendly mechanic in Cardiff and such is the distance that it’s not worth going home because as soon as I’d get there, I’d be called back to collect the vehicle. So when I’d booked the service, and in anticipation of the expected wait, I planned my day by first asking Neil (for that is his name) how long it would take. As a result of that one question I was able to make a plan as to what I’d do during the wait AND plan the rest of my post-service day.
First, I decided to go to a library and review my Personal Mission Statement and Goals, just to reset and refocus. That is a valuable activity that reinvigorates motivation and allows you to plan and envision how much better you’ll with deal with a challenge the next time someone annoys you. Then I decided to visit Cardiff Crown Court ‘for old times’ sake’, which proved to be a bust because inn the lead up to lunch there seemed to be little enthusiasm for starting the trial. (Wonder why courts are suffering delays? This is why: “Well, it’s midday, we’ll only get the jury sworn in and have to start the trial later, so let’s have lunch now and start the process at 2pm.”) Finally, I adjourned (ha!) to the adjacent museum and amused myself with some Natural History input – did you know that Wales is made up of rocks, like THE REST OF THE WORLD?
I walked 14km that morning and when I got home, I got to walk the dog, too. Yay.
But it was the first hour, the library life review, that made all the difference. No major changes in terms of my approaches to life, just a reminder where I was and wasn’t performing in terms of the person I want to be. A couple of short-term goals were identified, but the main benefit was just reminding myself who ME is supposed to be.
For those who just chill, kudos to you. Taking a break from the high demands of life is as valuable – I don’t do that because no matter how much I try I am always thinking about the next thing, so Mindfulness is a no-hoper. But for those who find meditation valuable, go for it when you have a long wait.
Charles R Hobbs, author of Time Power (best practical time management tome ever, available second hand only), suggests that when planning for a waiting period it is always good practice to have what he called a ‘High A’ to hand, meaning an important task that you can progress during your wait. Suggestions included making important phone calls or reading something related to your profession, but a good novel that lets you put the stresses of work behind you is as good a High A as a report that needs to be read but in respect of which you’re not really going to be able to provide the appropriate focus.
But the message remains clear –shopping, telly watching and other mind-numbing time fillers aren’t valuable enough for you to be wasting time on them.
What’s your High A, the one you can use to fill spaces in your day?
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian Professor of Psychology, known around the world for his right-of-centre views on the steady creep of authoritarianism that is intended to dictate to people how they should speak. That is why he became famous – he spoke to his government to say that there was a huge ideological difference between directing what people should NOT be allowed to say (genuine hate-speech) and directing what people HAD to say, e.g. enforced gender pronouns. You can have your own views on that, but rest assured I will not be TOLD what to say. You can ask nicely, and I’ll do my best to comply, but I refuse to apologise if I inadvertently ‘misgender’ someone based on several million years of evolution and 60 years of hitherto reliable guesses.
But he is also, as indicated, an expert on human behaviour, and in an interview on YouTube (and nearly everything he’s ever said is on YouTube so don’t second guess what you think may have he said, he’ll rip your argument apart) he made this interesting comment when discussing how people are so easily swayed from the disciplined path. You know, when one more cigarette/pasty/drink etc. won’t matter, or ‘it’s too hard to keep pursuing this goal’. We’ve all been there.
He said, “You can change direction if you want – as long as the new road is equally or more difficult.”
I can’t say I’d ever given that idea too much thought, before. But it’s a great piece of advice. It reflects the reality that, sometimes, the path you’ve chosen for yourself isn’t necessarily the right one. Many would give up, but Peterson counsels not giving up, but redirecting the same or greater level of effort towards a properly considered, alternative route to the success you sought, or even a new definition of success.
To use a poor analogy based on personal experience, I used to be a runner and did a couple of half marathons, but about 5 years ago my knees started grumbling. Friends introduced me to road cycling, and I recovered a level of fitness I hadn’t experienced for a while. Now, that is an accidental example of ‘changing direction but applying the same level of discipline’ to achieve a similar goal – physical fitness.
What have you been chasing, but no longer ‘love’? Were you on a particular career path that you now question? For example, and again based on what I saw in the organisation I worked for, have you been desperately seeking upward promotion and ignored potentially rewarding sideways development – less pay but a greater sense of contribution, achievement and purpose? To do either takes discipline, but they may also require similar mental and academic approaches which are just as difficult to travel, yet more satisfying.
In the same interview, the interviewer spoke of a friend who’d retired from some enterprise and initially enjoyed retirement, but realised he was getting bored. He made an astute observation with which I sympathise. He said, “I miss being good at something.”
You don’t only have upward, better paid options available. You have specialisation options, academic options, different job options – lots of options. And when you choose the option that works best for you, you discover the pleasure of being good at something.
What could that be? Apply self-discipline, and go and get that.
For more on this subject, buy The Three Resolutions in paperback or Kindle HERE at Amazon.co.uk .
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!
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.
Velleity. Ooh. New word. One for Scrabble, minimum 14 points. But also important when defining your goals. Particularly at New Year……
What does it mean? According to Edwin C. Bliss, author of Getting Things Done (that isn’t the David Allen version) and Doing It Now!, it means “wanting something, but not wanting it bad enough to pay the price for it.” Yes, losing weight comes a rampant first place in the list of velleitous goals. (Oh look, I made up a new word. Yay, me.)
I’m gambling that you, dear reader, like me, have a bucket load (list) of such goals. They’re ‘Like to Dos’ rather than ‘Will do at any costs’. They’re the ones that start with good intentions and usually remain there. Or they do mean something, but every time you consider committing to them – usually when action is actually called for – then you vacillate, meditate, procrastinate, and then change-the-date.
For example, I have a desire to drive the Nurburgring, but when the offer came up recently I put it off until next year. On the one hand, I could drive my car around it gently, but the enthusiast in me would inevitably try hard and risk having to walk the 450 miles back home, red-faced.
The answer? There is one, but even it can be looked at with velleity. The famed climber William H. Murray, leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition* in the early 1950s, once wrote an oft-quoted ‘personal development’ paragraph that read,
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Velleity in a well-crafted nutshell.
To do something you ‘kinda’ want to do but keep putting off, you have to invest something of yourself, or your cash. One of the least mentioned elements of Murray’s quote is that the ‘commitment’ to which he referred was – wait for it – paying for the boat tickets to Bombay. But as simple and uninspiring as that may seem as a ‘commitment’, popping some cash down when you are financially challenged is a good way to reinforce commitment – once you’ve coughed up cash you struggled to obtain, it’s mentally stressful NOT to come through on your goal.
Another way to overcome velleity is to make non-performance more painful than performance. A famous example is a Jewish gentleman in the USA who publicly swore that if he didn’t come through on a commitment he made, he would donate a four-figure financial sum to the Ku Klux Klan. He came through.
What can you do to, today, to overcome your wanna-do reluctance?
*Still can’t find the Scottish Himalayas on the map.….