The “us” component

English: Marie Curie

Marie Curie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be more useful.”

This quote by Marie Curie, a woman of selfless dedication and enormous impact, defines what it means to be the change. And she touches on a key component — one sometimes overlooked.

The “us” component.

Change isn’t always easy. It requires hope and opportunity and vision. But these alone, while inspiring, are rather useless by themselves. Real change requires hard work, attention to detail, empathy, understanding, sincere exploration and knowledge — all characteristics of individuals.

Recent news of the health care debacle is sadly demonstrative of hope without diligence, wishes without effective action. Wishing and hoping and promising never produce change. They may produce the expectation of change — even the belief that change is inevitable, but without due diligence to a task and faithful follow through, positive change rarely occurs.

Change takes far more than savvy marketing or confident promises or sincere assurances. It takes  concerted effort and the will to make something happen right. It takes the determination to do it well and to follow it through to completion.

But none of that will happen without the other component, as Dr. Curie explained:  First we prepare ourselves. We improve ourselves as individuals. Change requires self-examination and the willingness to be the best one can become as an individual. Because who we are makes a difference in effective change. Martin Luther King called it “the content of our character.”

Are we ethical? kind? compassionate? devoted? committed? Are we honest? open? teachable? All these personal characteristics impact change. Inversely, characteristics like hubris, arrogance, deceitfulness, cruelty and selfishness also produce change, however, it is never the kind that moves us forward.

Knowing who we are, honestly assessing ourselves and our potential is, therefore, critical to change — both personally and universally. It is this content of character that often determines whether change is positive or negative.

Dr. James Williams, associate professor in JMU’s College of Business, School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management, knows this well. He learned this lesson thoroughly. He changed himself first. In his words, he unmasked his own potential for change. Next week, Dr. Williams’ book, From Thug to Scholar, will be released. The title alone should tip you off to his story, which I, for one, am quite eager to read.

Soon on this blog we’ll tell you more about Dr. Williams — or maybe we’ll let him tell you himself — about how the first step to real change is sometimes very close at hand.

Changing us.

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