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Positive Directions

March 30, 2016

By Angela Jeffs

Have you noticed how many of the directions thrown our way in life are negative? The large majority, in fact.

It starts in infancy. What are the first words we hear over and over again? No. And, stop!

The first big lie? Father Christmas. Santa Klaus.

From thereon, things get worse rather than better, and soon we are surrounded on all sides by discouragement rather than encouragement, pessimism rather than optimism. Thrashed by it. Hung, drawn and quartered by it. Eviscerated by it; turned inside out, outside in.

These were my thoughts after leafing through a book sent by an artist friend in London. Over 13 pages he had listed some 600 directives that he had noted all over the city: physical signs that order authoritatively how to conduct our lives.

URBAN DIRECTIONS by Tony Rickaby is less a publication therefore than a piece of mind full observation. Heading off with a quotation from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘By indirections find directions out”, he begins at A with ACHIEVE (a good start), but ends with Y, YOU MUST BUY A VALID TICKET (because other wise you will be fined or sent to jail).

In between, do this, do that. Don’t do this, don’t do that.

Stop. Stop now. No, no, no a thousand times no.

Push. Pull. Refrain. Mind (the step). Beware.

Britain’s Nanny State in full flow…

What does all this do to us? To our minds? Our hearts? To our (collective) soul?

It made me read more carefully to pick out those few directions that lift us out of the rest, helping towards balance and positivity. Here are the few that to me offer some redress. (I identified 17, then looked again and pushed it to 20.)

The directions Tony lists are printed in capital letters. The words that follow are my own: a personal advisory and interpretation for which I take total responsibility.

ACTIVATE SELF ESTEEM: You need self-esteem in order to achieve, so very important. How to activate it though? Books, workshops, coaching, mentoring will all help restore confidence, build self-esteem. None of us are born lacking confidence; we lose it as we are shaped (malformed) by Family, the Church, State. Start your day with a mantra towards recovery: I am perfect as I am.

APPLY WITHIN: I love this. You need to apply within to activate self-esteem!

BE AWARE: This is our wake up call, because without awareness, we are asleep. What prevents us being aware? Mind. Mind in tandem with ego. Plus personality type in disintegration, as some of us tend to be more asleep than others. ( Identifying your type triggers and then illuminates awareness – initial steps towards awakening.

CAPTURE THE MOMENT: Look up from reading this and focus on something else in the vicinity. It may be a picture, a cushion, a plant, the view from a window, skin on the back of your hand. Look very carefully, as if (to use the words of environmentalist and author Rachel Carson: The Silent Spring) “you have never seen it before and may never see it again”. In other words bring total focus for awareness. In such a moment you are quite literally, out of your mind.

CREATE: Making things – any thing – is infinitely better than destroying things. Build, don’t knock down.

DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS: Join Amnesty International: a good start. Write to a prisoner on death row in the USA via Lifelines (
DONATE YOUR GOODS: Give stuff away. Be ruthless with clothing and possessions; if you have not worn or used some thing for three years, let it go… There are plenty of people in need.

EAT GOOD FOOD: You know it makes sense. Eat less too.

ENQUIRE WITHIN: Ask your self (yes, there are two of you) what is going on right now.

EXPLORE: Inside out, outside in.

HELP YOURSELF: As in help your Self.

LEARN: Keep an open mind and the learning will never stop. The writer DH Laurence is quoted as saying that “an open mind is the highest form of intelligence”.

LIVE YOUR LIFE: Life does not make us, we make our lives. In creating your own life, make sure you live it in harmony and integrity, with your Self as well as others.

MAKE EVERY MOMENT MATTER: Oh yes. Not because we have only one life, but rather to make the most of this one in respect to such a gift.

PHONE AFRICA: Well, why not? If Africa is a step too far, call a friend to share the moment.

PLAY NOW: Know when to be serious and when to have fun.
Find that balance.

PROTECT THE PLANET: Start by protecting your Self, because change begins within each and every one of us. Live with moral purpose. Try not to do anything that you would not like done (un)to you. Make where you live as healthy as possible; leave it better than when you found it, ie if you cut down one tree, plant five. Only humankind fouls its’ own home; pigs are cleaner than we are.

SAY HELLO: Remember the old adage: What is a stranger but a friend not met yet. Smile.

SET YOUR OWN LIMITS: If you are living within the limitations of others or An Other, it’s time to assert your self; it’s time for change.

START THE ADVENTURE: Whether starting a new book, course or a journey, feel the energy, sense the excitement, embrace whatever is to come. Live with passion.

TRADE UP: Never sell your self, short.

URBAN DIRECTIONS, £4 +p&p, is available from Tony Rickaby via his website (

About the author: After training in theatre and Laban dance, Angela Jeffs ( stepped sideways into London publishing. She worked freelance as an editor from 1973, then reinvented herself in Japan as a journalist and writer from 1986. She was a weekly columnist for The Japan Times for 22 years, and Japan Correspondent for Asia Magazine in Hong Kong from 1989-1996. Her book Insider's Tokyo, commissioned from Singapore, was published in 2001. Since 2005 she has been developing and facilitating a programme of therapeutic creative writing under the title Drawing on The Writer Within. Her latest book, Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail into the Past, can be ordered via
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