Do we see the change around us?

When I saw this poster via a link on Twitter, I laughed and then knew I had to write about it.

Change is such a frustrating process sometimes because it is so very gradual.  We can’t always perceive it when it is happening because sometimes it seems so glacial.  Those of us who are impatient for change(count me as one of those) sometimes feel like we are butting our heads against a brick wall.

But sometimes, all of a sudden, we look back and we can see what has changed while we weren’t even looking.  An interview I did with Laura Barack for SLJ yesterday reminded me of this.

And maybe there is an evolutionary reason for change to be very gradual.

When change isn’t gradual, it can sometimes be almost startling and disconcerting, unsettling as we try to get our bearings and make sense of it.  Nongradual change, especially that imposed upon us, startles our sense of ourselves in the world.

Of course, it’s about how we adapt to change, both gradual and sudden.  Do we buckle our seatbelts and forge on? Do we cling onto the past?   Do we feel excited about the change?  Do we focus on the positives about it?  Do we have curiosity about it?   Do we fear that it will alter us?  Do we embrace it as part of life, as Zen tradition would have it?   We can see the gamut of these reactions in the students and teachers that we work with every day.   We can see it in the culture of the schools where we work.   We can see it in culture in general.

And of course we can see it in ourselves.   It’s not so simple to define either–some people may be professionally very embracing of change, but personally very nervous about it.  Some people may embrace it in their personal lives, but fear what it means for them professionally.

This brings up all sorts of questions for me, ones I often ponder.  In terms of the culture of our own school, how does change happen well, and what do we do with all the possible approaches to change that our staff might have?   In terms of us personally, how do we refine our own approach to change?

But this post is more about what we are missing when we  judge our success only by dramatic and transformative change.

We miss all the daily changes.

We miss seeing the victories in gradual growth.

Our impatience colors our perception of what is happening because it focuses on our own frustration with not being able to rapidly effect change that we feel is so critical.   And it colors us in terms of our interactions and understandings of those we work with, who are bound to see our impatience as arrogance or negativity, or as judgmental of their way of doing things.

But most of all, we miss the positives that celebrating the small changes can bring to our own lives and our own enjoyment of our work and our lives.  We miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.

(As kismet would have it, just as I was writing this, a very apropos quote was posted in Twitter by SurrendrDorothy.  “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)

So although this poster is satirical, it’s an excellent reminder to us to believe and trust in gradual change. Not only gradual change but VERY gradual change.   We can trust that it is happening even when we can’t see it.   We can trust that everything we do leads to it.  And if we can have that kind of faith in it, what could we accomplish?

Photo credit: Mike Rosulek

(Postscript:  This design is available for sale, and I want to give full credit to the artist because the profits are going to the National Center for Science Education.)

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