“Change starts when someone sees the next step” (William Drayton).
THE SEEING OF POSSIBILITIES IS ONE OF OUR MOST VALUABLE HUMAN ENDOWMENTS. When the status quo is undesirable or unacceptable, we are capable of envisioning other scenarios. We can see other steps that might be taken. And, as William Drayton says, that’s when change starts: “when someone sees the next step.”
The problem is, we’re not always willing to take the next step, and so positive changes often stall before they have any chance to benefit us. “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better” (Sydney J. Harris). We will vote in favor of life’s improvement any day — as long as we can continue doing business as usual.
But, as with many of the other good things in life, change requires a degree of balance and wisdom. Dangerous extremes lie on both sides of positive change. On one side, there is the problem of those who are too slow to change, failing to see the benefits of some changes. But on the other side, there is the problem of those who are too quick to change, failing to see the harm that change might do. One of our main challenges in life, then, is to judge specific changes on their own merits, neither minimizing them because we’re averse to change or exaggerating them because we have an affinity for change.
The best changes in life are the big ones we’re willing to make within ourselves. The world needs changing, no doubt, but the most powerful way to change the world is to change ourselves. If when we look around, the only thing we can see is the need for other people to change, we are to be pitied. We need to change as much as they do. And we miss the point if we think of ourselves as basically high-quality people whose only need for change is to learn better ways of responding to the dysfunctional people around us. High-quality people don’t portray their sins as poor responses to other people’s failings; they openly acknowledge them as being inexcusable and take full responsibility. They have the humility that makes a person willing to change, and they have the courage that makes a person able to change. High-quality people not only see the next step — they actually take it.
“The hearts of the great can be changed” (Homer).