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Monday, September 09, 2013

Three Little PIGs

Bob Dylan
"All I can be is me. Whoever that is." - Bob Dylan

PIG is an acronym for Personal Ideals and Goals, and I keep about two or three a year. Once I achieve one little PIG, I find another.

I adapted it from the fairytale. You've heard of the story of three little pigs, right? It's about three little pigs who each build a house to protect them from a big bad wolf threatening to blow it down and eat them.

Well, the "big, bad wolf" are those negative thoughts and fears that threaten to sabotage us whenever we set ourselves a goal. If we put our PIGs in flimsy constructs, then our insecurities will easily "huff and puff" to knock them down.

The idea is to place our goals in houses of brick like the last piggy, who turned out to be wiser than the other two. Sure, it's harder work and takes more effort and more planning, but you win in the long run.

It also works twofold to help you test whether your PIG is realistic. If it is made of straw or based on unrealistic expectations, they'll be knocked down at the first hurdle. Whatever is attainable will be strong enough if it gets knocked down, to get up stronger than before.

When someone tries to knock you down, even if it's your own insecurities, getting up is half the fun. You prove to yourself what you're capable of. The PIGs that get gobbled up by insecurities will be those that were grounded in an overestimation of expectation anyway, the wise PIGs will be those protected by hard work.

I'm hooked on playing Space Invaders to release stress, and once my targets for charitable donations are met, I am hoping to buy myself the arcade game for Christmas to play in the office. I don't want just any arcade version, I want a classic import. I am in two minds about the expense, but you have to have fun with your PIGs. If this particular PIG is a "straw dream" then so be it.

Space invaders
I want, I want, I want

The PIG idea works for me, because it encourages me to embrace change. I think change is important - to be unafraid of it - and finding writer and performer AL Kennedy's article this week on change, from BBC's "Point of View", really resonated with me.

Entitled "Why embracing change is the key to happiness", I recommend people read her views if you can access it. I've discovered that the BBC redirects you to their international versions if you're out of the UK, but if you can get around that, Kennedy really offers some interesting insights on why we need to recognise change is a part of life. She ends her article by stating:

Approaching the changing reality of reality with sensible flexibility is the best strategy for happiness. I don't believe it, but it's true. And if I can change my mind, I can change anything else I need to."

We don't like change. We are averse to it. For example, when we read opinions that force us to think differently, we get grumpy. We can even get offended. The "big, bad wolf" comes out to "huff and puff" and blow people down, but thinking differently is what wins the day.

It's for this reason I enjoy reading the BBC's "Point of View" articles. Roger Scruton, who is a writer and philosopher, has shared some fantastic articles on democracy recently. He explains why it can be good to give in to your enemies and asks whether democracy (as we understand it in the West) is overrated. He also delves into Islamic law and democracy, and whether countries would be better off being more like families.

Scruton has a point of view that makes you think from a different perspective; it isn't tied down to the rhetoric of the times. When you do that, you usually find yourself in the minority at the start - until time and history win over the majority. But I always feel it's better to be in the smaller group, misjudged for your views, then be ashamed of them ten years after the fact, or wishing you hadn't kept quiet and meekly gone with the majority opinion, when you knew inside it was wrong.

There comes a time you have to trust in who you are, and stand up for what you believe in. Without that, some "huffing" wolf is always going to blow your house down.

That's the key I guess; our PIGs are really inroads into who we are. As long as you're not afraid to be who you are in the inside, then you won't let your fears be the ones to build you into a brick house, which ultimately trap you in.

Fear doesn't like change, and mental stagnation fosters paranoia. But when it comes to change, we shouldn't have a rigid picture of who we are, either. That finger we like to point at others so much, we need to have the courage to point at ourselves, too.

Who you are can change; it will change. Instead of being sad over it, and chaining yourself to nostalgic woes, it's best to break free from the old and embrace the new. Look for PIGs that emphasise that, or that reinvent nostalgia into something useful. Going retro has its benefits, but we can't live in the past.

If we lived in the past, we would never achieve anything. This weekend saw New Yorker Marin Alsop become the first woman to lead the Last Night of the Proms in its 118-year history. Alsop's advice is to "maximise whatever you are doing in the moment, and make a difference wherever you are." You can't do that if you are afraid to change.

Accepting change pushes you to challenge yourself. It is 2013, but there can still be firsts for women. Openly gay actress Heather Pearce's PIG is to be the first woman to star in Doctor Who as the protagonist. And why not?

In the coming years there are going to be a lot of social phobias that we are going to have to push aside. There is going to come a time we are going to be ashamed to admit we even had them - and judged people on the basis on them. In our refusal to see that change is the future, we might even lie about them, and try and blacken them, but the only people we are really lying to is ourselves if we don't commit to change.

We just spin about hiccuping hate from the same broken record. If we find ourselves unhappy and singing the same old tune, we need to ask ourselves why.

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