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The Slightest Change

A small shift is sometimes all it takes to move forward. The slightest change of any aspect connected with the whole (be that your goal, the group, the situation, or your future) can be enough. It can be a straightforward commitment to make a difference, a sharpening of focus, a moment of clarity, an intention expressed in a conversation, or simply a note written on a piece of paper. Any one of those can be enough to effect a transformation, move you out of a rut, contribute to those around you, or set in motion a chain of events which will lead to an improved pattern of behaviour.

This post was written following a discussion I had with a client last week in which I encouraged her to continue with her commitment to improvement even though it may seem like nothing is happening. The point I make here is that personal development is simple (but not necessarily easy). I have talked about it before in different contexts. Here are a few examples:

Those examples bring home the point that our development depends on just a few simple rules (even though I have listed 175 of mine, here). In fact, Karaj always said there was really only one procedure to remember. Despite that simplicity, we still need reminding again and again what we have to do in order to progress. We need reminding because we forget, we get complacent and we slip back into old, familiar ways.

My exercise routine is a good example. It has suffered a little over the last two weeks and I have missed a few days. This has been partly because of physical pain, partly because the motivation to get up in the cold, dark mornings is less than I would ideally want, and partly because of the boredom Karaj talks about in yesterday’s journal post from 11 years ago. Being reminded of that boredom, I realised that recently I have just been going through the motions with my exercises rather than doing them with the awareness necessary to make them really effective.

Last night I spoke with a good friend of mine. He is aware of my situation and he is also part of the inspiration behind my current exercise routine. So when I talked to him about needing to get back to the discipline, he understood. Moreover, I felt my own commitment being reinforced by sharing it with him. This morning, with renewed focus, I got up with the alarm, went through my exercise routine with more awareness than in recent weeks, and then sent a text to my friend to let him know and to thank him for the part he played in making it happen.

It is important to know that we may not be able to discern any improvement as a result of our commitment or intention, but that does not mean nothing is happening. If we have expectations, then we may already be setting ourselves up for disappointment as well as restricting ourselves: expectations can cause us to look in the wrong place for what we think will happen. The best we can do is to be consistent and persist. One day it will all come together. And, as the post Punctuated Equilibrium says, it could happen in an instant.

Related post: It Can Happen In An Instant

4 Responses

  1. Hi Jonathan

    I have found that this is mirrored in tango.
    Learning tango is hard but the rewards of perservance are immense.
    When learning new moves it is necessary to copy the teacher and practice, keep trying until you get it right so that the move flows. Sometimes when learning a new move, no matter how much I have tried I cannot perfect the move, I get stuck and so does my dance partner and even though we try different things it still doesn’t work. When the teacher is consulted, s/he will point to a small change (place the foot 2 inches that direction, put your weight onto the right leg or some other small change) and the move works and flows.
    Though I know this now and endeavour to apply it to new moves, I cannot always find the solution, there are times when it will inevitably require a the teacher to tell me what I am not doing right and how to correct it.


  2. Hi Chuhr,
    That’s a great analogy. I’m struck by the thought that even though the teacher helps you, it is only made possible by the fact that you and your dance partner have put in so much work trying to succeed for yourselves. Even so, just asking the teacher is itself the slightest of changes.

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    I fully believe in making small changes to get big results. I do notice in myself and in others the need to get quick feedback. Something telling you that you’re doing the right thing and that the “pain” is worth it. It is always a tough fight for me to postpone the “gain”. Especially when going back to old behaviour brings instant gratification.

    What I try to do is find the gratification in pulling through, regardless of visible outcome. The fact that I did my exercise, that I only ate healthy food, that I planned my day the night before, that makes me feel good. But as you said, only when I do it with full awareness.

    Thanks for making me think again. See ya.


  4. Thanks Paul.
    It’s always good to know there are others out there doing it too. You make a very good point about quick feedback. Such an attachment can make things very difficult but, as you say, if we seek gratification in the task itself, it is much more rewarding.
    (Viel Spaß in Berlin)

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