The older you get, the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep on livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N!!!
Quote from dazed and confused.
Brilliant, just genius.
For quite a few years I was a shitty person, selfish, self-centered, self-obsessed… the list could go on.
Essentially I put my needs (for needs read wants) ahead of everybody else’s, of my friends, of my girlfriends, of my work colleagues… yes everybody without exception.
My friends abandoned me, regularly, and I had to make new ones (which incidentally I became quite adept at from the amount of practice), my girlfriends dumped me but that really should be no surprise and I got sacked (but not often).
Like most people I didn’t and still dont like to hear bad things being said about me and even less so being said to me so I rationalized them, went defensive, went on the attack (more people walking away) and ignored what was being said. I thought they were wrong, they were jealous, they were just moaning, being needy and high maintenance and generally were being real pain in the derriere.
Because… I was good, I was a nice person, I had the answers, my needs were more important, I was important!!!
I didn’t get the other people have needs thing, I didn’t get the other people are important thing.
I still have relapses, but then my wife slaps (yes sometimes she really does but not hard, just hard enough) me back to reality, she keeps me grounded and enlightens me on what’s important, which quite often is not necessarily me and what I want.
I would blame everybody but me if something went wrong, but I can HONESTLY say that I’ve learnt that sometimes I do actually screw-up. Painful to admit, yes, but I do make mistakes.
I eventually realized that I was being an Ass-Hole and started to make changes. This didn’t always go well, the people around didn’t know which Philip would turn-up, which head of the day I was using and I can see why there was some confusion. But I was beginning to ignore those little demons inside my head that kept on pushing me to just get what I wanted and screw the rest, go on just this one more time, I’ll be good tomorrow. It was like a drug being selfish, being me was giving me a high and destroying my chances of ever being a fully functioning adult.
It finally dawned on me that I had to be HONEST not just with others but probably more importantly with myself. It is sometimes good to put yourself first, you are not always in the wrong. The realization journey was like a pendulum and I’d reached the edge of the opposite swing and was beating myself-up way too much. You have to stand-up and support what is the right thing to do, not just the right result but the right way of doing it.
Today I feel well adjusted, a little stressed from time to time but I guess that’s normal and importantly on the whole I’m HONEST with myself, with others and with the people I care about.
The march of technology in the medical arena means that life, or probably more accurately signs of life, can be preserved for quite some time. But this for me raises the question of do we value life as a series of electro-chemical impulses or do we value life for the qualities it might provide including the risk to life that we sometimes experience.
What kind of life do we value – biological or experiential?
Legal norms and values would appear firm that biological life should and must be preserved. That potentially we could be in a living death as it were kept ‘alive’ by machines and techniques external and alien. The cessation of our ability to breath and think seems no longer a barrier to being alive provided of course we live in one of those wealthy developed nations with the means to prolong life in a mechanical and medical way.
Almost if not every hospital in the land has the equipment and expertise to keep people alive in this way. Heartbeats and pulses are maintained whilst the loss of brain function goes unchecked. We do not have the technology to change the loss of brain function, and we pointedly refuse to accept that the body is dead so long as the machine does its job. Physicians fear the liability implications in deciding that flicking the switch is actually in the best interests of all concerned, not least the living dead who is in all probability way beyond an opinion on the matter. The very essence of cardio-pulmonary life becomes a grotesque excuse for the living as we knew them.
And still we are encouraged by those on the less than liberal right to think about the sanctity of life, how precious it is. Their assertions are not based on quality of life experience, suffering, the imminence of death itself or the burden on others and the wish of the person to either live on or die but more likely based on a religio-emotional response to the imminence of death, a fear no-less of death even by proxy.
So where do I stand on the matter?
Well I believe wholly in the sanctity of life, that the value of life exceeds all others, that no other value overrides the value of life except that of more life! But I am not in the life is created at conception camp, no, a life is a life when it can be viable.
I do not believe that all lives are equal on the other-hand. Those who are in fear of their life from another have the right to take the others life. Those who have practiced evil, encouraged evil and supported evil have no right to life (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol-Pot…) and those who are functionally brain dead do not have a right to expect their bodies to be preserved in a vegetative state indefinitely.
However, it is more difficult than to give simple rules about what is a good life and what isn’t. Quality of life will be a different experience for everybody and it can be simply put that the value of life varies with the quality of life experienced. Whilst this is simple to articulate, in fact it is almost impossible to measure for another, its a personal thing. Nonetheless the concept that life may not be worth living goes hand in glove with the quality of life approach. Life can and must be divergent for the experience to be worth living.
Notwithstanding there are vast populations across the globe where simply having enough to eat is at the center of existence, we in the developed and broadly speaking sophisticated populations have choices. There are some among us who will live a simple life, no too exciting who will work hard and provide for their dependents and then there are those who want and strive for something with a bit more risk attached. I count myself in this latter group.
I am reminded of a film I watched some time ago in which a young man discovers that a life of work and reward for work was not actually what he was looking for. In it he is told of an old Arabic saying which goes along the lines of ‘throw your heart out in front of you and then run to catch it’.
Of course the trouble with this approach means that you have to run the risk, life might not work out as you’d like. If it were all to go wrong and some how I suffered a great accident during one of my adventures I’d like the machine turned on, my organs that are working harvested for the benefit of others and then the machine turned off.
I will be happy to expire one day, but not before I’ve had a life worth living!
One of the greatest, most important principles we can learn is that fulfillment does not come for free. Having our accomplishments handed to us on a platter might feel good for a moment or so, but it’s the work involved in earning it that will create a lasting appreciation and fulfillment.
The harder we work for something, the happier it can make us. Hopefully, this gives us a different way of looking at the obstacles in our lives.
Stephen R Covey published 7-Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989 introducing the concept of the Paradigm Shift – a change in mind-set.
The book is rated as in the top 25 most influential management books by Time Magazine 2011, so probably worth a look if you’re looking to self-improve some. Not only that by President Clinton read the book and invited Covey to Camp David to see if he could integrate the ideas into his presidency.
The Paradigm Shift asserts that there are multiple perspectives, two people may see the same event from different perspectives, once the reader has accepted this then the reader is ready for the 7-Habits:
The first 3-Habits are concerned with moving from dependence to independence.
Habit-1 Being Proactive – take responsibility for your actions and the consequences (both good and bad) that follow. Decision making is the primary determining factor for effectiveness in life.
Habit-2 Begin with the End in Mind – envision the ideal characteristics for each of your roles and relationships. Creating your very own mission statement is a practical way of doing this.
Habit-3 Put First things First – importance takes priority over urgency. Ask yourself, are your efforts are driving nearing to your desired goals and enrich the desired roles and relationships identified in Habit-2.
The second 3-Habits are concerned working with others, collaborating.
Habit-4 Win-Win – value and respect others, a win for each party concerned is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one party had gotten their way.
Habit-5 Understand, then be Understood – listen with an open mind, then seek out a positive way of resolving a situation.
Habit-6 Synergize – by combining the strengths of many, goals can be achieved that no single person could have achieved on their own.
The final Habit is that of continuous improvement, continuous renewal.
Habit-7 Sharpen the Saw – balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga…) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.
This idea is central to the 7-Habits. Essentially it proposes that there is no limit to the amount of ‘wins’ that can take place as contrasted with a limited view which suggests a zero-sum approach (a win for someone else in some way cancels a win for him/herself, these kind of people find it impossible to celebrate others success and will often seek failure for themselves provided it assures failure for others). Each party may take a different perspective on the win but nonetheless each will have a win. Individuals who reject the zero-sum mentality and accept the abundance mentality are able to celebrate the success of others without feeling in some way less as a result.
There is also a proposed Habit-8, Effectiveness of Greatness which basically is about inspiring others to achieve goals, to find their own voice. There are many examples of this; Hellen Keller, Moshe Dayan, Nelson Mandella…
I’ve just read breaking news that Mrs. Doreen Lawrence is to be made a Baroness.
I’m not generally speaking in favor of peerages but on this occasion I am more than willing to make an exception. I cannot think of a more deserving person.
Doreen Lawrence has led a legal & media campaign to find out what happened to her son, Steven Lawrence who was killed in 1993 in a racist attack which was not investigated properly at the time by an institutionally racist Police Force. This woman and her family should be thanked by everyone (black, white and any other ethnicity you could mention) for the efforts she has put into the campaign.
I am a huge admirer of Doreen Lawrence for her dignity in quite adverse circumstances; she deserves recognition and I applaud the Labour Party (in this case) for recommending her.