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It is never too late to be who you might have been.

—George Eliot

There is tremendous possibility in every moment.

In our culture, it’s very easy to get caught in the endless flow of doing things, fulfilling requests, keeping up with what’s happening in the world. It’s not just in the arena of social change and sustainability that people find themselves “putting out fires” all day. But although this is often asked of us, it doesn’t allow us to ask if we are making a difference.

Amidst the rush, there is always an opportunity to begin again.

What is it that we are committed to? What changes do we want to see in ourselves or in the world? An exercise I often share with individuals and groups involves visualizing the nature of any effort as both the acorn and the oak. The potential is held in us both as a seed with the imprint of what will become, and the full realization of what is possible, and this is applicable to individual changes, shifts in our workplace, or in large-scale community building or policy campaigns.

Any change—in our lives, in our organizations, in our communities, in our culture—requires that we step away from what we are doing now and initiate a new pattern. Elizabeth Janeway once wrote that “social change happens when enough changes.” Change requires coming back to our commitments and remembering what matters on a daily basis. Change requires a true commitment to change.

It is all too easy for events in our lives—both large and small—to distract us from what is really important, or to feel that expediency requires that we live out of alignment with our values.

True sustainability demands attention to our own sustainability, to working at a depth that we feel is worthy of our efforts, to always be questioning if what we are doing is effective. And if it isn’t, to find novel ways to create the impact we’d like to see.

The cultural anthropologist and organizational behaviorist Angeles Arrien tells us that “change happens in the slow lane”, and that while moving fast might feel like we are getting somewhere, it is finding the opportunities to slow down that may be most instructive.

In his poem “All the True Vows”, David Whyte writes:

All the true vows

are secret vows

the ones we speak out loud

are the ones we break…

Those who do not understand

their destiny will never understand

the friends they have made

nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life the waits

beyond all the others.

We are always asked to revisit such vows in our lives to ensure that we are aligned with our purpose and ensuring our own health as we work on building healthier families, workplaces, and communities. Whether we want to start running again, or change a relationship at work, or plant seeds for long-term success in an initiative, we can in each day, in every moment return to what is most important and begin again.

March 2011
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