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All change, please

02 January 2015

IT IS election year; so change is in the air. As campaigning cranks up, we will be told that we stand at a crossroads with the choice for change. Preachers also like to place us at a crossroads, in the valley of decision, where the right choice of road will bring heavenly change. But, in the quiet of the evening, when the intoxicating speeches have been folded up and forgotten, what chance is there for change on any level?

Change means moving from one place to another, and such transitions are hard. They are hard even if we wish desperately to get somewhere new. It may, for instance, be difficult to get out of bed on a cold morning, even if we know we must, and that we will enjoy the day when we do. The warm bed has the stronger pull.

The problem can be more serious. I spoke recently to an angry man; he was angry with his company for not mentoring him better, and for not offering him positions of leadership, although, when we pondered his work practice, we noted that he refused to change the way he worked, even though it would be better if he did. And it was the simplest of changes as well, involving time-management: how he used the different parts of the day.

I proposed some people techniques for reordering his day; but the sense was that they would be of no avail: will trumps trick every time. He could see what he needed to do, but could not or would not do it - he even blamed self-help books for not helping him more, although St Paul had this problem long before any of those were around: "I don't understand what I'm doing. I don't practise what I want to do, but instead do what I hate."

Transitions are difficult, because however much I wish to arrive somewhere new, I do not wish to leave the old. So I get angry with others instead, because I need to blame someone for this sustained lunacy. The Promised Land is a few steps away - but to take those steps appears impossible.

I feel the restrictive force of my frightened personality, still in the thrall of some outdated egoistic nonsense, set against all forms of growth. And if it is so hard for an individual, what hope is there for a nation? Perhaps the politicians talk about changing the nation because it is a pleasing distraction from the harder task of changing themselves.

But here is my New Year recipe for change: (1) Be kind to yourself. Your ego served you once; so it is not surprising that it still holds power. (2) Seek a correct diagnosis of your situation: what you are doing, and why. Awareness is the beginning of shift. (3) Ponder what you want from "this one precious life". And what will you do to get there?

Oh, and be kind to yourself.

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