OVER the past few weeks, I have learned a simple, but important lesson.

It is never too late in life to learn a new skill or try something different. My life has not lacked challenges that have interested, tested and motivated me – politics is many things, but it is rarely dull.

But my focus on the responsibilities that my career entailed meant there were some personal pursuits that I neglected. Learning to drive was one of them.

For one reason or another, I just never got around to it – there was always something else to occupy me. And it is possible I was also a bit scared of it. Whatever the reason, I had got to a stage in my life where I assumed I would never do it.

And then something changed – the prospect of standing down as First Minister, first subliminally and then consciously, made me realise how much more freedom and flexibility I would have with a driving licence.

I was also keen to have challenges outside politics to focus on and perhaps distract me from the transition away from government office. And so, I decided to take the plunge and start driving lessons.

I don’t mind admitting that I was initially terrified. To say it took me outside my comfort zone is an understatement, and I wasn’t at all sure if it was something I would ever master. To be blunt, physical co-ordination has never been my strong suit (one of the many reasons that I will never be seen on Strictly!).

But still, the prospect of being able to drive – and achieving something I had once thought impossible – spurred me on. I was really lucky to secure a brilliant instructor. Andy wasn’t just a great teacher, he also put me at ease – which for a 53-year-old former first minister was just as important.

We quickly established a good rapport, and despite my nerves, managed to have a good laugh. I even trusted him never to reveal my, at times, terrible language when I was finding manoeuvres a bit difficult. Slowly – very slowly at times – but surely, I started to get the hang of it. There were ups and downs along the way and it was hard but I made progress. And the sense of accomplishment as I did so was beyond what I expected. But that was nothing compared to the feeling of exhilaration when I was told I had passed my test, with only one minor fault!

I don’t think any election or live TV debate had ever made me as nervous as I was that morning.

But somehow – thanks in no small part to Andy – I got through it. And I am already getting used to navigating my way around my Southside constituency. Being able to drive is every bit as liberating as I thought it would be.

But the bigger thrill is the sense of achievement of doing something I thought I never could. So, to anyone out there harbouring a long-standing ambition to do something but thinking you are too old – you are not. Go for it. I am already contemplating my next personal challenge (though I have ruled out skydiving!).

This life is short, and we only live it once. We should try to make the most of it.