Thinking about change

For this edition, here’s a little theory about how things change.

Individual Change Is Gradual

For individuals, changes come by gradual improvements in skill, habit, and character. Dramatic shifts are rare, and when they do happen they are usually unsustainable for us. Considering how much of our thinking and decision-making is automatic—the great majority—it makes sense that individual change is gradual. We can all become better people, but usually it happens by degrees over time.

Social Change Is Sudden

At the level of society, change rarely happens gradually. In many cases, it doesn’t happen at all for many years. But when it does come, change comes suddenly. That’s because social change happens when institutions change, through laws (Brown v. Board of Education), policies (LGBTQ service in the military), programs (Social Security), leadership (US Presidents), or technology (TikTok). And social change tends to be sudden even though the ingredients of social change can take years to develop.

Patient Urgency

Individual change and social change have at least some things in common. Neither comes quickly. They both require patience and urgency.

This means:

  1. To help people (and ourselves) change, we are willing to do it by degrees. We keep at it and enjoy small daily victories.
  2. To help society change, we persist as credible advocates with a plan, persuading minds one at a time and being ready to show the way when the moment comes.

And it means not quitting, even when it feels like change is slow or nonexistent. We can trust that change for the better is always possible.

What change are you looking for and what can you do each day to help make it happen?

Seeing Good at Work

An inspiring example of change at a social and individual level, Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire reduces gun violence through life coaching and data analysis. One study directly ties it to a 32% reduction in homicides. But the program took over a decade and three different attempts to finally stick.

Promotional stuff

Now that I have a couple of months of the newsletter under my belt, I would be incredibly grateful for your feedback. If you have ideas, criticism, or resources to share with me, please reach out.

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