Be Your Own Role Model

The weekend’s newspapers contained so many stories about what is wrong with the world that I felt that a bout of optimism was required. And not just optimism for its own sake but based on what I’ve seen and done. So here goes.

Having worked for many years in the voluntary sector where, among other things, I ran a charity which helped people who were homeless and unemployed to build their own homes, I think I know something about the art of the possible. I also know that believing that you can actually do something is, probably, 80% of the solution. That and a little bit of determination and perseverance. Now, for most of us, the latter of these is a given. After all, we get up each morning to face a new day and get on with whatever it throws at us. Although there may be little alternative, that’s called perseverance. It’s really just another way of saying that you get on with it. So, let’s move onto determination. Well, most of us probably have that too. To test that out, don’t think of all the things that you told yourself that you’d do and didn’t (usually called New Year resolutions), but try to think of things that you just did and don’t think of it as determination. After all, if you’ve got children, you are likely to have developed the quality to quite a marked degree. More generally, you only have to look at how few people smoke these days to realise that they’ve kicked one of the most addictive drugs there is. That takes quite a bit of determination.

In my own case, the determination I witnessed was Gaynor’s, now my wife. Having had an unsuccessful first marriage and then gone on to bring my children up, I’d been there, done it and got the T shirt. So, many years later when I met someone else who wanted a family, it was a no go. Gaynor didn’t make a big deal about it but did ask, occasionally, if I’d changed my mind. The answer was always “No”. Until one day when I couldn’t really think of a good reason why not. The result is my second daughter, Ellie, now at university. It’s what I call “one of my better decisions”. Quiet determination won the day and I’m very glad that it did. Ellie still loves the story of how her mum insisted that she be born.

The last piece of the jigsaw, however, believing that you can do it, is by far the most difficult. Until you do something quite simple. Get a piece of paper and a pen and write down what you want to do; that big task. Then break it down into very small stages and start by doing the first of these; this might be as straightforward as googling some information. Then move onto the next and so on. Something you know you can do that because we’ve already established that you can persevere. In that way, you make climbing a mountain into a series of small steps, each one manageable. The journey will, likely, do a number of things. It will either help you to reach your goal or take you somewhere else. More importantly, it will help you to believe. The secret of success.

Finally, I heard somewhere that, many years ago, of a swimmer who wanted to win an Olympic gold medal but was a long way off the time  he needed. His coach asked him if he could improve the following day by 0.01 of a second. Of course he could. “Well if you can do that every day for the next two years” said the coach, “you’ll smash the current Olympic record”. I’m told that he did. Heroes and heroines, after all, aren’t necessarily special people but often ordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things. A group homeless people who did featured on “Grand Designs Revisited”. Check out the programme on Hedgehog Self Build Group. They did it and became role models for their own children. Not a bad legacy to leave.

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