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.

Not for chickens

We all know what change is, right? We should, especially here at JMU, where we like to say that change is the status quo. But have you ever tried to define it? Not as easy as it seems. Our definitions of change are usually rooted in our experiences. Change varies with situations, needs and challenges.Even disciplines. Change to a chemist is different than change to an anthropologist.

Recently I came across a definition of change on the website of the Institute for Industrial Engineers that made me think. Change is tough to define because it has so many possibilities. It is the who, what, when, where, how and why of things that can and do happen. This dynamic quality makes a definition elusive — yet universally understood. Change can feel unsettling, troubling or exhilarating and inspiring, all at the same time. However you define it, though, change is a part of all our lives.

With permission of the IIE, here is their great definition of change. (Emphases added)

What is Change?

Change Is…..

Change is something that presses us out of our comfort zone. It is destiny-filtered, heart grown, faith built. Change is inequitable; not a respecter of persons. Change is for the better or for the worst, depending on where you view it. Change has an adjustment period which varies on the individual. It is uncomfortable, for changing from one state to the next upsets our control over outcomes. Change has a ripping effect on those who won’t let go. Flex is the key. Even a roller coaster ride can be fun if you know when to lean and create new balance within the change.  Change is needed when all the props and practices of the past no longer work. Change is not comforted by the statement ‘just hang in there’ but with the statement ‘you can make it’. We don’t grow in retreat, but through endurance. Change isn’t fixed by crying, worrying, or mental treadmilling. Change is won by victors not victims; and that choice is ours.

Change is awkward — at first. Change is a muscle that develops to abundantly enjoy the dynamics of the life set before us. Change calls own strength beyond anyone of us. Change pushes you to do your personal best. Change draws out those poised for a new way. Change isn’t for chickens. Change does have casualties of those defeated. Change will cause us to churn or to learn. Change changes the speed of time. Time is so slow for the reluctant, and yet it is a whirlwind for those who embrace it. Change is more fun to do than to be done to. Change seeks a better place at the end and is complete when you realize you are different.

Change is measured by its impact on all who are connected to it. Change is charged when you are dissatisfied with where you are. Change doesn’t look for a resting-place; just the next launching point. Change is only a waste to those who don’t learn from it. Change happens in the heart before it is proclaimed by our works. Change chaps those moving slower than the change itself.  If you can change before you have to change, there will be less pain. Change can flow or jerk, depending on our resistance to it. Change uses the power invested in the unseen to reinvent what is seen. Change is like driving in a fog – you can’t see very far, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Change is here to stay.

Reprinted with the permission of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, <> , Copyright©2012 by Institute of Industrial Engineers.

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