Yesterday I had close shaves with competitiveness, vanity, lust, and impatience. I prayed for gumption (as an alternative motivating force to competitiveness), self-forgetting, selflessness, and relaxation. And it worked. I quite subscribe to the idea that God needs free rein with my life to change what needs to be changed, but giving my mind “identikit pictures” of the character defect criminals du jour to look out for on the Step Ten surveillance cameras really does help, as does the deployment of smart bomb prayers aimed specifically at the most pernicious culprits.
It seems that, with the right attitude, “working on one’s defects” in this way is not quite the futile exercise in self-improvement it is sometimes portrayed to be and is indeed a reasonable way to “bring the shovel” when God is moving mountains.
It is not a substitute for the more wholesale surrender required in Step Seven, but it appears that lots of my defects boil down to bad mental habits, indulgences I have allowed to establish themselves, and the only way to root them out is to be decisive and determined (cf. the exercise of willpower talked about on page 85) in not indulging such thoughts when the temptation arises, until the temptation no longer arises.