People want progress, but they don’t want change. –Eva Burrows (1929-) Australian; Leader of Salvation Army
I laughed when I first read this. You know, how other people complain about change rather than embrace it.
A common saying around 12-step rooms is, “if nothing changes, nothing changes.” This quote above, however, puts that phrase in a peculiar context. I thing of “progress” as something distant, a lofty ideal, an inevitable by-product of human civilization. But how does progress happen?
If I want to progress in my spiritual life, I must constantly make changes in my day-to-day routine. This is an active process. I can’t just sit by, complacent, and expect progress to happen.
Are change and progress the same thing, just on a different scale? Is change a component of progress? Maybe I think of “progress” and “change” in terms of how long it takes. Progress seems like a slow, gradual journey, whereas change feels like a sudden upheaval, an earthquake in my inner landscape. But is that what change has to be?
How can I make change feel more comfortable? Maybe the upheavals happen simply because I resist the small, daily changes. At the same time, I tend to think of progress as this great leap that takes huge effort, which makes it seem almost impossible. Do I feel like I have to take heroic measures to achieve progress, therefore I quit before I even try?
There are plenty of things I would like to change in myself, such as my horrendous house-keeping skills (aka I’m lazy) and my short fuse sometimes when dealing with my son. I want to make Progress, so I set lofty ideals and make sweeping reforms that don’t last. In defeat, I revert to my old behavior.
Perhaps I can look at it differently. I can set my sights on the long-term progress and maybe set a trajectory. Within that framework, the small, daily changes (and set-backs) don’t matter as much. It’s all just part of the process. Instead of “I will have my house perfectly clean, dusted, vacuumed, decorated, etc. by the end of the week,” I could say, “maybe I’ll do the dishes right after dinner tonight rather than waiting,” or “maybe I’ll hang one picture today.”
The ideas of change and progress are nothing new. This is simply a different way of looking at it. Maybe if I think of change and progress in the context of each other, I may actually grow beyond where I’m stuck now. No matter how I chose to think about it, the fact remains: if nothing changes, nothing changes.