Taking Action, Practicing Change

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” – Mahatma Gandhi

At times, we can find ourselves absorbed in thinking about making change in our lives. This can be particularly true at certain times such as the new year or a significant birthday. Events such as a sudden loss or news can also cause us to consider change. We may be influenced by a book or article, seeing an inspiring example in another, or just by hearing a good idea. However, how many times in our lives have we set good intentions and not been able to follow through, or had great epiphanies and decided to implement them in our lives only to see them fall to the wayside? There is an old piece of wisdom that says that you cannot think yourself into right living, but you can live yourself into right thinking. Living mindfully, we learn to live with attention and intention, guided by our values, and develop the ability to consciously bring awareness into our daily activities. As we do this, we also become aware of habits, tendencies and beliefs within ourselves that prevent us from doing so. This is the beginning of true wisdom, identifying within ourselves that which prevents us from being who we really want to be. What are the habits, tendencies and misperceptions that, in the guise of finding pleasure and acceptance, actually bring about suffering and isolation? The only way to remove these is to recognize and understand them. In order to recognize and understand them, we need to be conscious of how they arise and prevent us from living the life we find valuable and meaningful. By practicing intentional living through transformative action, we can discover some of the habits and tendencies that support us as well as the ones that hinder us.

One of the most fascinating aspects of life is the difficulty that most of us have actually putting into action the things we know will improve our lives. All of us are capable of taking a little time and identifying habits, tendencies, and attitudes that we know would significantly improve our lives. Yet, even after identifying them, we are frequently unable to integrate them into our lives. I’m sure we have all had this experience. We may start off with the best of intentions and be highly motivated, only to find that we gradually fall back into our old patterns. Of course, there are also many things that we know would be beneficial in our lives that we don’t even attempt to implement. We tell ourselves that when our lives are less busy, then we will find some balance and take up those healthy activities. We also, upon reflection, may find that we are able to give wonderful advice to others that we ourselves are unable to take. In all such cases, the essential question is, why do we resist the very things we know will improve our lives?

When we look deeply, we will find different reasons for the resistance that arises in us when we try to adopt healthier habits and activities into our lives. Across the board though, one of the most common reasons is that we simply don’t take the time to reflect upon how beneficial they would be for our lives and notice how many of our old habits prevent us from fully engaging in our lives. Our lives can be busy and full without much time built in for reflection and wise intentional living. Unless we consciously make the time to observe and evaluate our habitual patterns and tendencies, it will be very difficult to let go of the ones that no longer serve us and adopt new ones that will help us cultivate our highest potentials. If we do take some time and identify the ideals we would like our lives to embody, the quote from Gandhi reminds us that it is critical to try to put them into practice, even if only small bits of the time. Talking about change in our lives doesn’t change our lives. Deep, interesting philosophical conversations do not change our lives. We can only make the changes we find meaningful in our lives through action. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we only practiced what we preached.

We invite you to put into practice something that you feel will be beneficial in your life. Whether it’s a habit, an attitude, an ideal, or some good advice you give frequently, it doesn’t matter. Pick something meaningful and each day do your best to put it into practice.