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Change Work December 2011

Be careful what you wish for

Why is it so difficult to change anything?  The economy and the environment are going to hell because of how we behave collectively and yet it feels like we can't do anything else.  Is it because of the political complexity of reaching global agreements?  Or is it just the familiar human reluctance to change our habits?

As individuals, many of us want to break bad habits like smoking, drinking too much, overeating, procrastinating.  And we also want to establish good ones such as exercising, self-discipline, improving our minds.

We can see what's needed but seem to be incapable of doing it.

So why not just ask Father Christmas?

Dear Santa,

I've been really good this year so I think it's OK for me to ask for something very special.  Quite a few things actually, although as a complete change I'm moving away from unashamed consumerism and going for things of lasting value:

That's probably enough for this year.  Any of those would be appreciated.  Happy Christmas!

Habitual ways of thinking and behaving get established through repetition.  It's an unconscious learning process that doesn't seem to require any effort.  In contrast, to change any of them deliberately can seem impossibly hard.  Worse than that, part of you doesn't really want to change because there's some kind of "secondary gain" to be had from even the most self-destructive of patterns.  These conflicts can be resolved and new thinking patterns can be created using the tools I've discussed before - and will be discussing over the coming year.

So, I don't think a letter to Santa is really going to bring me what I want.  It will probably be much more useful to decide on a few specific goals and to make plans to achieve them. That will probably involve changing some long established habits and learning some new ones.  That's really all there is to it, and the tools are available to anyone who wants to use them.

On the other hand, I could hedge my bets and send a letter anyway.  It can't do any harm can it?