How We Change

Written with Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

How have you changed over the years?

Over the decades we have had many metamorphoses. For instance, we have lived in several different countries and have had a number of different  professional involvements, to name a few. Not really much different from most people of our generation.

Some changes we choose. In other cases life chooses for us. Some transitions are welcomed and others we would gladly forgo. But in all cases, to some degree or another, we are different people after the life event.

Fundamental changes often provoke deeper life questions that have no easy answers such as

What opportunity can I find in this setback?
What’s most important to me right now?
What is truth anyway?

Though change is difficult, even painful, it can also be very productive if we keep in mind the following principles:

1. Remain open to other ways of knowing

For a number of years one of the authors taught a class in a business management program on world religious traditions. Many students came to respect that there were other ways of seeing the world.  Some found it difficult to accept other ways of addressing ultimate questions but the ones who did broadened their view of the world and of themselves. An open heart and mind is a key to productive change.

2. Focus on living the questions

Acknowledging that we don’t know the answers and, consequently, living the questions opens the door to discovering true wisdom. People who seek certainty in absolutes often are more interested in security than the pursuit of truth. Also, ironically, “facts” can get in the way of experiencing underlying truth. In this information age where knowledge is everything, life’s deepest questions are better approached with “I don’t or I can’t really know”. Daniel Pink captures this process beautifully when he remarked that when we ask questions, life becomes a dance rather than a wrestling match.

3. Be willing to surrender to the unknown

At times, our moments of greatest opportunity lie in periods of confusion. “I give up” is not necessarily admitting defeat. Wisdom comes to us when we are not afraid to open ourselves to the unknown. When we admit ignorance, barriers evaporate and wisdom shows us its face.

4. Recognize that life “as it is” is not working for us

Maya Angelou once said, in effect, that when there is great pain in front of you as well as behind you, change paths. We always have the power to choose a different way. Habits of the past do not have to be our future destiny.  Some of the more profound changes in life happen when we choose to face (as opposed to escape from) our pain, ultimately leading us to make better choices for ourselves.


What changes are you being prompted to make right now?
How can these principles lead you to a more productive outcome?

You May Also Want to Read

Resilience in Times of Change


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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3 Responses to How We Change

  1. Karen says:

    Simple, succinct, and yet deeply profound. Four simple points give us lots to ponder.

  2. Pingback: How We Change | People Discovery

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