How change happens — and how it doesn’t
We sometimes wish to change for the better by cultivating some good habits: for example, exercising, meditating, reading wisdom-books. For making such change, what do we often rely on? Sentiment and incident.
Sentiment: Sentiment usually doesn’t last for long. We may feel like reading a wisdom-text and may even start. But over time, we may feel bored and demotivated. And if the book starts seeming too dense, we may just quit.
Incident: We may wait for some inspiring or sobering event — a close shave with death, for example — that will impel us to change. Such incidents may trigger us to change, but only till the incident’s impact remains.
When is change more sustainable? When its impetus comes from within. The Bhagavad-gita indicates that we are spiritual beings (07.05) occupying psycho-physical machines (07.04). Incidents occur primarily at the physical level and sentiments occur primarily at the mental level. Thus, they both are external to us as souls. What can inspire change that emerges from much closer to our core? Two things: Intent and commitment.
Intent: To crystalize vague sentiment into concrete intent, we can craft a clear statement of purpose explaining why this change is important for us. Then we can make a definite plan. For example, suppose we are serious about reading a four-hundred-page wisdom-text. By analyzing that we can read ten pages in thirty minutes and that we can spend thirty minutes daily, we can envision ourselves completing the book in forty days.
Commitment: When we are committed, we will block out time in our daily schedule and not compromise unless in an emergency. And as soon as the emergency ends, we will try to make up for the lost time. To keep our commitment strong, we can keep an appropriate progress tracker.
To bring about change, don’t rely on sentiment or incident; cultivate intent and commitment.
Think it over:
- What are two ineffective ways to seek change?
- What are two effective ways to seek change?
- How can you apply this knowledge to change yourself?
07.05: Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.