Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?

If it can, I can’t imagine how that process would take place, so the answer is, probably, no. However, can people change? Well, the answer to that is a very definite yes and I like to think that I’m living proof of that.

For most of my life I’ve relied on my instincts to see me through. Whether that was how I brought my first two children up, how and why I selected books and albums to buy, how I managed to save and develop charities or write my books. I relied on those instincts and they saw me through with, I like to feel, some degree of success. To me, the real proof was that those instincts worked even when I had little or no previous experience in a particular field of endeavour.  Based on my childhood template of the need to make sense of, organise and create structure, they were both my driving forces and guiding lights and very strong ones at that.

However, despite the successes, there were also downsides. I am, I think, quite an imaginative person who has always, to use the jargon, “thought outside the box”. I also know that, when I let my imagination run free, I can paint pictures such that I can persuade others of my rationale and vision. However, I also know that the need for that structure can hinder precisely that imagination.

One of the areas in which this happened has been in my speaking engagements. Whenever I spoke for the charities I managed, I always used slides. These gave me the structure and allowed me to give my talk in a very freewheeling and easy way. When I started speaking in my own right, however, I very much wanted to do this without such aids and found it difficult. My mind tended to go blank. So, I made use of prompt cards. However, fearful that I might forget something, these themselves became quite comprehensive. What I knew I needed was to break the talk down into four or five headings and just trust myself. Unfortunately, I found the former of these very difficult to do; until very recently.

About to give a talk in Leeds, I was reminded that, instead of what I had assumed would be 20 minutes, my talk would only be 15. How was I to get this sorted out within the next few minutes? Well, that instinct took over and the (very obvious) headings came to me in a flash and I did my talk. Not as well as I’d have like, but I did it without prompts. Yesterday I had to give a talk for half an hour in front of 60 people and, guess what? No prompt cards and a talk that was well received.

I have known about that childhood template, and how it determined my actions, for years. However, discarding it left me without a route map and that has been something I have struggled with recently. Yet the urge to be able to let my imagination roam free, especially in my writing, is strong. So, I will persevere, despite the uncertainty. Can a leopard change its spots? Well no, not really. Can we, as individuals, change the way we behave? You bet we can.

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