When you look around at the world, I suspect all of us would say there are some things that really need to change.  Whether those changes would directly benefit us individually, or whether they might have a global impact, we ruminate on the possibilities.  But, when it comes right down to it, how much change are you willing to make in your life to help make those overall changes possible?  How easily are you able to make changes in your life?

Like so many others, I recognize the beautiful wisdom in Mahatma Gandhi’s well-known quote:  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  But, until I truly started studying human mindset and life span development, I don’t think I quite valued the challenges that come with allowing that change within ourselves. I am currently preparing a paper on adolescence and the stages of physical, cognitive, social, emotional, school/work, and psychological implications that occur during that span of life. In reading about the scientific reasoning capabilities of high school students, I came across a very interesting, and familiar, concept that I found valuable to share. 

As we begin to develop the capability of abstract thinking, meaning the ability to hold multiple unseen variables in our mind as we process an outcome, around the age of 12, we also begin to form emotional connections to our ideas.  In my text, The Life Span: Human Development for Helping Professionals, 4th Ed by P. C. Broderick and P. Blewitt (2015), a wonderful book for anyone curious about our developmental life stages, I came across two gems that stood out to me.  “Our motives and emotional commitments can sidetrack our logical reasoning” (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015, p. 342).  In taking this idea outside of scientific reasoning, I’d like you to consider how flexible you are about your views on immigration, or environmental impact, or recycling, or educational reform, or race, or abortion, or any of the heated arguments that often occur around social media, or the Thanksgiving dinner table.  These beliefs we hold often dictate our friendships, our intimate partners, and our way of being in the world.  Those are some strong beliefs!  We incorporate these learned beliefs in and put them in a locked box labeled ‘our values.’  But, I would like to throw this idea into the ring – while our values about ourselves, others, and the world are important to us, and seem all-or-nothing, I want you to think about what your motive is for those values?  Yes, what motivates you to hold those beliefs in stone?  Who would you be if you allowed them to be more malleable?  Have you determined that if you listen to the other side then you are not a “true” (insert political leaning), or you’re not a good representative of your culture or your religion, or your family, or… I hope you see where I’m going with this.  If you investigate your motives, likely they have very little to do with the actual belief, they are separate.

That leads me to the second gem of information I discovered, “The stronger our emotional commitment to an idea, the harder it is to engage in such self-evaluation effectively and the less likely we are to do it” (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015, p. 344). The key words here being, “the less likely we are to do it.”  That needed change in the world just suddenly got a lot farther out on the horizon, didn’t it?  If everyone thinks they are ‘right’ then why budge?  But, I think it’s safe to say that not budging is really not getting us any closer to needed solutions, and honestly, it’s dividing people.  You see that division very distinctly in the rise of events that reflect these distorted, all-or-nothing mentalities. The world is not benefiting from our unwillingness to listen to each other, to hold a space of curiosity for each other, and from our unyielding insistence that our way is the only way.

I do understand what it feels like to have strong beliefs, and I also want to stand strong in them because I feel like they represent a part of who I am and how I would define the world. But I also can acknowledge that I was not born with these beliefs, they were learned, and with all things learned, there is always more to know.  I encourage all of us to be open to learning more, and learning to understand more about each other, so that we do not become rigid to life and each other.  So that we are able to “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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