Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Personal Development. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Wednesday’s No-Smoking Day appears to have had no effect on Patch. Owner Yvonne Stubbs says: “I don't begrudge anybody a fag, but this is ridiculous. At first I thought he'd mistaken the ashtray for a food bowl but once he'd got the dog-end out it was obvious that was what he wanted. I tried taking it off him but he was off like a shot round the back of the sofa so he could have his fag in peace. I'm sure he would be a chain smoker - or chain chewer - if I let him but I try to keep ashtrays away from him.” Patches don’t appear to work on Patch so let’s hope dog-ends don’t bring about the end of the dog.

It’s not just dogs that get addicted and not just smoking that can be addictive. Craving can be brought on by a variety of different substances and sensations. The sense of being trapped by it produces a feeling of powerlessness. St Paul describes one aspect of the experience accurately when he says: What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.* For him, the beginnings of a solution came with a sudden and dramatic awareness while he was on his way to Damascus that he was loved and was not alone.

Enormous discipline is demanded if dependency on a habit is to be cracked. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous suggest a framework within which such self-control may begin to operate. They too emphasise the importance of realising that there are others who are there to help in the struggle, as well as the value of belief in a higher power.

If today there are types of behaviour that seem to have a grip on us, it is important not to battle on by ourselves. Seeking support from others and knowing that we are not alone can be the beginning of the end of the enslavement. Patch’s problem might be solved if Yvonne stopped smoking. Maybe they should support each other in giving up!

* Romans 7:15

Seo Sang-moon recently passed the academic part of his driver's license examination on his 272nd attempt. The 70 year old repairman, from a small town in Korea, said he was illiterate and used the test process to teach himself the rules of the road because he could not read them in a manual. Each failure taught him a little more, and after 271 attempts, he was able to get the minimum score needed to pass the academic test.

Seo Sang-moon apparently never considered an alternative way of dealing with the problem – learning to read. In our lives too, we sometimes focus on an aspect of something that troubles us when in fact it’s only a symptom. There may be a deeper cause which, if attended to, might affect more widespread beneficial changes in our lives.

Jesus once surprised the crowd who followed him by offering a paralysed man forgiveness when he had thought his problem was his inability to use his legs. In the end he went away walking. Perhaps today it’s worth asking ourselves if the issues we are dealing with in our lives are the most helpful ones or whether it might be more helpful to tackle those which are at a deeper level. If so, there may be people around who, like Jesus, have already noticed our deeper needs and would be glad to help.

When Doncaster Rovers turn out to meet Rotherham on Saturday, it's unlikely their Chairman, John Ryan, will be in the team. But he was once. At the age of 52, he was the oldest player ever to turn out for a British professional football club.Mr Ryan has been a fan since childhood and has invested £4 million pounds in the club. But watching from the stands and owning the team has never been enough and the players and the board apparently granted his wish to don the red and white and appear for the team in one of last season's fixtures, even if only for the last few minutes of the game.

Christians believe in a God for whom it was not enough to invest everything in the world and to watch from the sidelines. In Jesus, God fulfils a longing to don human colours and become involved in the action.

John Ryan risked his dignity going onto the pitch. “The ball might hit my backside and go in” was the height of his goal scoring ambition. It would be sad to think that anyone would hold back from really getting involved in something they felt committed to, simply to maintain their dignity.