“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Tolstoy was right. It’s easy to point a finger at other people… or some of the institutions around us… and point out what “they” should be doing. It’s much more painful to look at ourselves and point out how “we” should change. But such a change of focus is the beginning of wisdom.
One Anglican bishop learned that lesson too late in life. He had these words written on his tomb in Westminster Abbey:
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
“But it, too, seemed immovable.
“As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
“And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
Well said. The problem is… most people don’t like change because it’s uncomfortable. By its very definition, all change falls outside your comfort zone.
So what can you do… to change yourself… in a positive productive way?
=> 1. Take control of your attitude.
Most people don’t like change… because it’s so unpredictable. They want to have some control over their lives and their careers, but sometimes that control seems impossible.
It’s like the “Peanuts” cartoon by Charles Schulze. In the first panel Charlie Brown says, “I learned something in school today. I signed up for folk guitar, computer programming, stained glass art, shoemaking, and a natural foods workshop.”
The second panel has him saying, “I got spelling, history, arithmetic, and two study periods.”
The third panel has his companion asking, “So, what did you learn?”
Charlie provides the answer in the final panel, “I learned that what you sign up for… and what you get… are two different things.”
The good news is you can ALWAYS control your attitude… even if you can’t control the change itself. Take your job, for example. You may be upset or disappointed about changes in your organization. But how long should you let these feelings go on? One week, one month, or one year? Are you going to hold a grudge for ten years?
W. Clement Stone, the president of Combined Insurance, said, “There is very little difference in people. But that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
When it comes to change in your personal or professional life, you can concentrate on what’s going wrong and become preoccupied with the things that are aggravating or upsetting. Or you can choose to put your energy into making things better. You can choose to be positive, optimistic, and enthusiastic in your attitude.
Poet and author Maya Angelou says it best. She says, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
=> 2. Remind yourself how important change is.
It’s kind of like a workout. If you don’t exercise your muscles, they tend to atrophy. You get hurt a great deal more easily.
And if you don’t exercise a bit of risk or pursue a bit of change on a regular basis, your mind tends to weaken. After all, your mind was made for challenge. As psychologist Dr. Denis Waitley says, “Most people rust out due to lack of challenge. Few people wear out due to overuse.”
Or in my simple way of putting things, “Those who don’t take chances don’t make advances.” Change is IMPORTANT.
In fact, it’s almost impossible to maintain the status quo. If you’re not changing for the better, you’re changing for the worse. As writer Gottfried Keller wrote back in the 1800’s, “We don’t remain good if we don’t always strive to become better.” So go for it. Go for change.
=> 3. Commit yourself to some specific changes you want and need to make.
Don’t sit around waiting to see what will happen. Don’t wait for change to come your way. That could be dangerous. That’s what the frog found out who dialed the psychic hotline. He was told, “you are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you.”
“Great,” says the frog. “Will I meet her at a party?”
“No,” said the psychic, “Next year — in biology class.”
So don’t wait for change. Commit yourself to some specific changes YOU want and need to make.
Unfortunately, most people fail to make such commitments. Most people finish the calendar year no better off than they were at the start of the year because… they never started… anything. As Dan Kennedy, the co-author of “The New Psycho-Cybernetics” says, “They are ‘waiting’ — until something changes, but things don’t change people; people change things. Procrastination is the language of the poor.”
And to keep things simple, there are only two things you change: 1) your attitudes, and 2) your behaviors. When you change your attitudes, beliefs, and self-image, you’ll see changes — BIG CHANGES — in your behavior. After all, according to the best minds in psychology, “You perform exactly as you see yourself.”
Second, you can focus your change efforts on a few of your behaviors. When you change what you do… you change who you are. As Kennedy notes, “If, for example, you end your habit of immediately going to the couch to watch TV after dinner and instead spend an hour reading books on money, personal finance, investing, real estate and business opportunities, and you do that for as few as 21 days in a row, you’ll morph into a smarter, more ambitious person.”
You can do that same sort of behavioral re-programming for anything you want… better relationships… a better career… a healthier body. Focus on one thing at a time. And if you use those 21-day cycles, there are 17 things you can choose and improve in just one year. So pick wisely.
Writer Ralph Ellison said, “It takes a deep commitment to change and an even deeper commitment to grow.” So be it. You’re worth it. And you can do it.
Action: Commit yourself to one specific change you’re willing to make and likely to do… every day… for the next 21 days.