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Self improvement: Why we could do worse than to aspire to be like Columbo

Lieutenant Columbo is the central character in the crime series Columbo, played by Peter Falk between 1968 and 2003, if you are unfortunate enough not to have seen this show. I remember growing up seeing the show and still have a fondness for the detective today!

So often, now, we are encouraged, advised or actually want to continually improve ourselves. Sometimes it is the way we look, our job, our education, our health or the very essence of who we are; we want to be better people. It may be tempting for some to try to model themselves on well-known celebrities whom we perceive to have the lives that we desire.

My view on this is, really, don’t model yourself on anyone else; be you! As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’. However, this is about you, not me, so that brings me back to my favourite detective. If you want to improve some personal aspects of yourself, then, aspiring to be more like Columbo is a great start.

Being humble – Columbo has an abundance of humility! We can see that in the way that he communicates with others during the course of his investigations. Approaching our relationships with a sense of being humble increases our openness to others as we are likely to make fewer judgments about them.

Respectful and polite – Columbo remains respectful, courteous and polite, even when he is investigating murder suspects! Often, when we feel frustrated by other people’s views or their behaviour, at times we can lose our sense of respect for others and treat them in ways that we ordinarily wouldn’t. If Columbo was on social media, I have little doubt he would remain respectful and polite in that area too; how many of us can say we have always remained this way when using social media? Be like Columbo, remain respectful and polite, even in the most trying of circumstances and company!

Unthreatening – The detective has a relaxed, calm, placid approach during his investigations that often allows him to extract greater (and more accurate!) information from suspects than he would if he had been overbearing and forceful. How different could your relationships be with others, if you used this approach more, particularly with people whom you find difficult? Taking on a more amicable, pleasant, non confrontational approach may even take some of the defensiveness away from some of your interactions.

Question everything – Columbo doesn’t accept anything people tell him at face value; he checks it, thinks about it, rethinks, and returns to get more information. How could this help you in your life? How often do you accept, uncritically, what you are told, see, hear or read? How often do you accept, uncritically, your own unhelpful thoughts? Using the Columbo approach means you can pause, think and reflect; it is not about being suspicious of others all of the time, after all whilst you may be taking on some of the characteristics of the murder detective you won’t (I’m guessing!) actually be investigating serious crimes! However, it is about giving yourself time to think if that view or that thought is accurate, or if another explanation fits better, perhaps by looking at all of the evidence. The result is greater clarity of thought and the ability to see the bigger picture.

Persistence – Columbo is relentless in his investigation to find the truth during investigations; he isn’t put off easily. How often do you put off things because they have become difficult, or take an easier path when one becomes challenging? What rewards could you and the people you care about reap by persevering when you feel like giving up and resolving to see things through? How good will you feel when you reach your goal, or overcome that difficulty that felt insurmountable once?

As Columbo would say, “Just one more thing….”

If you want to make some positive changes, you really should start by asking yourself….

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