Two and a half years ago, back on my first blog, I wrote about Belief and elaborated on how important belief is in my life, and life in general. At the end, I alluded to the other integral characteristic by which I try to live my life: Change. I closed with saying that Change was a topic for another time, but in all two and a half years that time never managed to come—until today.
This week the United States of America swore in its 44th leader: President Barack Obama. He ran his campaign on the promise of change, a detail I referenced in my post looking ahead to 2009. Befitting to the symbolism of the week, I want to tell you why change is one of the most important concepts in my life.
First, I’d like to posit my simplified philosophy on change and time:
The past is set in stone, the future forever in motion: all you can do is bring change to the present to shape your future into a better one.
In Japanese Kaizen philosophy, a core tenet is that everything naturally “rots” from the moment of its creation: a product that’s innovative today becomes less innovative with each passing day that it remains the same. I am fully convinced that this principle applies to humans just as much: I went through a long depression in my life and one of the things that prevented me from getting out of it was the simple fact that I, as a person, was not changing. I stood still in the everlasting journey of life for around two long years, and whilst I was largely unaware of this reality myself for most of that time, it weighed down on me and kept me disoriented and unhappy.
Self-development is a crucial aspect of life, and a lack of it can have disastrous results on your personal mood and happiness. Standing still in your own growth while life catches up to you often brings only negative change to you, but if you embrace and welcome change in your life and actively find ways to change yourself, you’ll run ahead of life and be better off for it.
Always remember: to improve is to change.
In similar vein, if you’re trying to convince someone of something they disagree with or don’t understand, just trying to change their minds about the issue may not be enough. A beautiful moment that, to me, perfectly explains this can be found in the movie Music Within, which is based on the true story of Richard Pimentel. In one scene, Dr. Padrow tells Pimentel he might be wrong in his assertion that he needs to convince employers to think differently about people’s disabilities in order to get the disabled hired:
“You don’t need to change their minds about people’s disabilities, you need to change their minds about themselves.”
Often in life, you may find yourself convinced of something you didn’t believe in at first, or something you disagreed with, but a careful reflection may indicate that you don’t fully accept this new notion until you’ve altered your self-image. This can be as simple as an automatic result of being presented with the new facts, or a long and drawn-out process of internal refusal to really accept the change.
Whatever ends up being the case, change is the only way forward in life. Clinging to a past that has come and gone is clinging to the concept of erosion itself.
Politics and change
When Proposition 8 was passed in California, banning gay marriage again mere months after it had finally become fully legislated and approved in the first place, it was a huge step back for humanity but it spurred on a newly-invigorated movement towards (mutual) understanding. The strongest backers of Prop 8 were largely religious, but in simplified terms, the only reason they had to support something like Prop 8 is their strong, personal fear of change. They fear the changes that yank them out of their comfort zones and into the scary unknown, changes brought upon by the mere existence of people with different views, different lifestyles, different sexual preferences. These people like the world around them and want to control every tiny bit of change it might see.
But the world is changing well beyond their control, every day. And it’s an unstoppable force.
To resist change is to resist the future, thus, it can be argued, to welcome change is to welcome the future. Sure, the future may bring both good and bad, it may make your life better or worse… but unless you actively welcome change and adapt yourself to it, you forgo any influence you might have in making that change be a good change. If you resist change, resist the future, you lose all control over the change that isinevitably coming, and if you then don’t like what you get: tough luck! You decided against making yourself be part of the change, and only through making yourself part of change can you steer change for the better.
An important detail to keep in mind, and I’ll use Proposition 8 again as an example here: trying to fight off gay marriage by creating propaganda or supporting efforts like Proposition 8 is not “making yourself part of change.” The only way to make yourself part of change is to adopt it and interact with it, and then allowing yourself to adapt to it.
To believe in a brighter future, one must learn the lessons from the past, cherish the positive ideas of the present, and constantly adjust those ideas in the composition of the future. An eagerness to change is the most powerful tool you can have to shape your present into the most amazing future.
I will end with a quote by one of my personal heroes, Charles Darwin:
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
— Charles Darwin