17. Better pull out the stops

“If I sat down and thought about the achievements I’ve made, and I don’t mean educational qualifications or the kind of car I drive or anything, but the sort of qualities that you’d hope good friends would talk about if they were making a speech about you, I’d like to think they’d say I’ve built up a few of my own personal strengths over time, or maybe they’re just ‘positives’. Or that’s what I’d like to hear anyway.” (Sorry mate, can’t help you with that.) “Maybe no-one else sees it, but I think I’ve built up a sort of bank of reserve battery power that kicks in when there’s a bit of slack, or when I really need it — although you know probably everyone’s got that back-up power lurking somewhere. Not for the day-to-day doings so much as those other times, when there are decisions or efforts that have to be made about things that really matter. It’s a bit hard to explain, and even though I know what I mean, it’s not something that I’ve tried to put into words before.

“Like being pretty determined, when I want to be. Most days I can just drift along with the rest of us, doing whatever comes along and just getting through the day. But sometimes it just seems to require a more focused effort, and at those times I can choose a course and stick to it. And I don’t just mean for the same day or hour, although it could be a short burst if that’s all it takes. But if I’ve decided for instance that I really need to, say, learn to use the computer mouse with my left hand instead of my right because the right hand keeps getting tingly, then that’s what I’ll do, and keep at it until I get it right. That’s not the sort of change I mean though. Of course the better examples of the determination I’m talking about are those times when the goal is deeper than a physical habit — it’s the changes you make under the skin that really matter.

“Then there’s being able to adapt and become really familiar with these sorts of achievements. If you make an improvement, the last thing anyone wants to see happen is going back to the original less-than-optimal situation that could have been so annoying before, or at least annoying enough to make me want to make a change. After making an effort over and over again, where you get to isn’t somewhere you should retreat from. One of these positives I think is being able to become comfortable with that, so there’s no longer the feeling of any change being a big deal. Of course that also comes with having some sense of determination, when it matters. It goes with the territory.

“Another thing I’ve noticed is that probably most of the times when I have seen a noticeable improvement in personal approach, especially through adopting a viewpoint or attitude, is arrived at because there has always been an inkling somewhere inside, like a seed that’s been dormant, that this was where I should have been heading anyway.” (And who tickles them inklings, Benny boy?) “It’s interesting because that’s never an effort — when I realise a more helpful approach has been stirred, it’s like a puzzle just unravels and falls away, and it all just naturally makes sense — maybe more so because these improvements seem to have the nature of being more ‘true to form’, and not imposed.

“Another positive, and it could seem strange to nominate this as a positive, but it is, is an easy access to self-criticism — or you could call it reproach, maybe auto-censorship. Most of the time this comes about because I’ll have lost sight of those first three developments, and lost track of what’s been achieved already. The aim is to get back to the straight and narrow, not to wander, to tell myself off for slipping back to the assumption that there’s not much I can improve on. The point is, it’s no use pretending everything’s hunky-dory when there’s so much that can be improved, and no-one’s going to get any closer to that by dropping the ball right now. So cut it out. Get back to it.” (Hey, did you just mumble that last bit out loud?)

“And that leads right to another positive that can be viewed as part-and-parcel of this five-part back-up reserve battery pack. This one is more about having some sort of inspiration, or maybe it’s aspiration, an aim. It’s okay to have determination, get into whatever that’s about, like it was always second nature, and keep focused, but overall there’s got to be a goal worth chasing. And I’m not nominating any nitty-gritty focal points here, which is also kind of the point. Yeah, aspire to a better outcome, but not just regarding specific items. There’s an overall ‘one-size-fits-all’ here. When you condense right down to the pithy middle, all of the above is applicable in whatever situation you find yourself.” You know what? That’s inspired too.

< Chapter 16 Chapter 18 >

Chapter index and link to slogans