One of the few things that my father taught me and which has served me well over the years has been a description of life in general. He once told me, 'Billy, if you expect life to be easy, you'll be disappointed. It's tough, a constant struggle with peaks and troughs. The time you need to hang on the most is when all others are letting go.' (I paraphrase). My father was a relatively uneducated man who left school before his 13th birthday to work, but he was one of the most persistent and resilient men I ever knew. In my youth, I saw these qualities of his as pig-headedness and sheer downright stubbornness.
My mother was an eternal optimist and most of the pearls of wisdom I took from her treasure box would be ones concerning positivism, self-belief, and the importance of following one's dreams. However, being the mother of seven children and the wife of a fiercely independent husband, mum still relied on what I was brought believing to be the adages of old wive's tales. One of mum's oft-repeated saying was, 'Billy, never give up heart. It is often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock'.
Mum was always the great dreamer in the family. She genuinely believed that most people never achieve their dreams because they don't believe in them strong enough and are too quick to give up on them. So many times I have tried to do something and was to about to give up when mum might stop me dead in my tracks by saying, 'If that was my problem, Billy Forde, I would think about it a bit more, and give up on it tomorrow if you must.'
I remember being in my late teens. I took up boxing for a few years to help improve my balance after a bad traffic accident. Over fifty operations on my legs at the age of twelve left one three inches shorter in length than the other leg. I was never a great boxer and there were many far more skilled than I at the sport, but yet I managed to win more fights than many a better boxer than myself. My assets were that I had a good punch and was prepared to receive five punches if I was able to give back one of mine. Most important of all, however, was that I was never knocked out, and however many times I got knocked to the canvas, my pride would never allow me to stay down beyond the count of ten. I would have to say that it is this same doggedness and determination that has helped me walk away from death's door a number of times since my heart attacks and the onset of terminal blood cancer. As my father's message rammed into my brain as a growing child, 'You can never beat a person who won't give up'.
During thirty years as a professional worker with problematic clients, dealing with problematic situations has become second nature to me. There are some attitudes, approaches, methods which are simply much better than others to adopt, but none of these ways of improving one's situation or getting closer to one's goal mean anything without that personal ingredient of determination and staying power. As the great Albert Einstein and one of the cleverest minds that ever operated once remarked, 'I'm not that smart, I just stay with problems longer'.
I have and will always remain an optimist, thanks to having much of my late mother's philosophy. She would say, 'Billy, never stop dreaming or believing in the power of your dreams, for the day you give up on your dreams is the day you give up on yourself'. She was in effect telling me that it is never too late to be what might have been.
My professional life as a cognitive behaviourist helped me find an alternative route out of problems often. In situations where I have been unable to find a way, my response was to make one! Whenever I have given something my best stab but have not got what I ideally wanted, I learned many years ago to sit myself down quietly and ask myself, will the fact that I didn't get what I wanted really matter in a month's/year's time? Usually, the answer is 'No'.
One of the best ways I have often enabled myself to keep going has been to remind myself 'why' I really started in the first place? The behaviourist part of me tells me that mankind is an addictive animal and that almost anything can become an addiction; especially quitting. Screaming, 'I can't stand it! I can't stand it!' (whatever it may be that you can't stand: job: situation: relationship etc. etc), is a sure guarantee that when you leave the situation you can't stand today, that you will take your attitude of 'I can't stand it! I can't stand it!' into the next situation, and the one after that!
Another thing I found out much later in life is that when people point the finger at you in disapproval, it is a finger that really is aimed at them and their own faults.When someone tells you that you can't do something, they are really telling you is that they can't.
So, if you are the type of person who tends to give in too easily, it helps to learn to hold out a little longer each time you try. One of my most enjoyable sayings is to remember that courage doesn't always roar its presence. Sometimes it's the quiet voice of determination at the end of the day that says, 'I'll try again tomorrow'." William Forde: April 14th, 2018.