We would help ourselves greatly if we saw change not as a thing but as a practice.
When we treat change as a thing we imagine that inventing what we want will be enough. We return from an away-day or conference brimming with ideas and plans, commitments and to-do lists, and we think those are the change. And then we get disheartened when nothing seems different – when it turns out that our habits have far more tenacity, and our ideas far less power, than we had given them credit for.
When change is a thing we imagine we can systematise it, programme it, schedule it, roll it out, cascade it. We think a series of workshops ought to do it. Or a clever deck of powerpoint slides. Or a rebranding exercise.
When we find out how difficult this is we think we didn’t try hard enough, or weren’t committed enough, or weren’t smart enough. And so we go round the cycle again. Or we give up – a result of our growing cynicism and weariness.
But change is not a thing. And anyone who has ever experienced the changes that come from learning a musical instrument, or a new sport, or a language knows this deeply.
To bring about change in those fields we know that imagination is not enough. We have to practise. We understand that it takes time, and that there will be many setbacks along the way. We know that from the vantage-point of the beginner we cannot understand all that it will require. And we know we have to keep practising even when the path is unclear, the results uncertain, and when we’ve become bored and frustrated and disillusioned.
We practise because we know it’s in practising that what is going to be born will be born.
Seeing change as a practice allows us to keep going in the face of our anxiety and confusion. And to see it as the process of living, and learning, that it always is.