I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. ― Philippians 4:13
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. ― James 1:22
A very small shift in direction can lead to a very meaningful change in destination. ― James Clear
Each person’s task in life is to become an increasingly better person. ― Leo Tolstoy
We all need to change. People are never in neutral when it comes to personal growth and development—they are always either getting better or worse along the way.
Sadly, too many people have a “road to Damascus” attitude about change.
What I mean by this is that they are waiting for something outside of them to change them, expecting the changes to be rather radical, and demanding that changes take place quickly. I can promise you from personal and professional experience, those three are never going to happen.
Nothing outside of you is going to change you. There is no person, book, talk, seminar, sermon, or blogpost that can change you. If you’re going to change, it has to come from making a commitment to be a better person from the inside out.
Yes, making personal changes may be in response to external forces putting pressure on us, but we have to decide to marshal all our internal resources to pull it off.
Change is very rarely radical in nature.
While some people experience God’s grace in such a way that they suddenly “got sober” when it came to overcoming an addiction, the radical transformation of your characterological and moral defects in life never happens. You’re going to have to settle for small victories along the way and be grateful if those happen.
Finally, deep characterological change is never fast.
It’s a lifelong process that requires a great deal of patience and perseverance in life. Put a little differently, you are going to need to work on your character the rest of your life because it is always a work in progress.
Think back to the story I told you about the caterpillar’s efforts to become a butterfly. That’s a great image of the change process.
The caterpillar was wise enough to know that it had to force its way through the narrow opening of the cocoon rather than hope some outside force was going to do it for them.
The caterpillar was willing to accept that going from a caterpillar into a butterfly didn’t mean they would have nothing else to work on the rest of their life.
And, finally, the caterpillar was patient enough to keep squeezing its way through the narrow opening until the process was finished.
Remember, it was the person watching all this that couldn’t accept the laws of change. They weren’t willing to let the change process unfold naturally for the caterpillar and enlarged the narrow opening so that the caterpillar come could out more easily and turn into a butterfly more quickly.
What that person did reflects how most of us think about change—it needs to be done by outside forces, it needs to be radical, and it needs to be quick.
There are a lot of really good books about change out there, and they all seem to be in agreement about one thing: If you are going to change, you are going to have to do it by changing internally, accept that change is incremental, and accept that it is a lifelong process.
Failure to adhere to these laws of change will only lead to our defeat.
In light of all this, we need to commit to making minuscule modifications to our thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis and not grow weary of staying the course over time. In other words, we need to be humble enough to admit that the rules for change apply to all of us and that we comply with them or regress.
Small changes make a huge difference. They are a lot like putting a small amount of money away each week and watching it grow over time. If we do that, thirty or forty years later, we will be in much better shape financially.
Let me share a personal example of how small changes can make all the difference in the world.
Pop fell into a bad habit when he was in his thirties and forties (yes, it lasted that long) of staying up until 1 and 2 in the morning watching television, all while eating things that were not good for me (ice cream and chips were my biggest weaknesses). For years, I didn’t make any effort to change this unhealthy habit, a habit that left me exhausted and sluggish.
God finally got through to me about it. I didn’t get a letter in the mail from God saying, “Chris, thou shalt get to bed early and stop eating stuff that’s bad for you,” but He made it clear that this is what He wanted me to do.
So, I decided to comply with God’s nudge and started going to bed at 10:30 p.m. rather than 1 or 2 a.m.
I gotta tell you, it was tough sledding for a while. I would haul myself off to bed but had trouble falling asleep at first. Nevertheless, I held my own feet to the fire because I had made a commitment that I was going to take better care of myself and go from being a malformed caterpillar to a healthy butterfly.
I am happy to say that making that small change has paid great dividends. I don’t even want to stay up past 10:30 p.m. anymore because of how beneficial getting a good night’s sleep has become to my physical and emotional health.
I’m not boasting about any of this, I’m just trying to tell you that small changes that are practiced over time can turn a particular area of your life around and you can more fully experience a life of health and well-being.
Munchkins, metaphorically speaking, in life when it comes to making personal changes. Make minuscule modifications in your behavior, like getting the bat off your shoulders or watching the ball from the pitcher’s hand to the barrel of your bat. You’ll be surprised how small changes can lead to big results over time.