Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book #4: Change Anything

I finally sat down this week and read Change Anything from cover to cover. I've been dipping into it off and on for months as I've been adapting the material from a course based on the book to teach at the jail.

The premise is fairly simple and constructive: having the will to make better choices in our lives is essential, but if we're not aware of things that influence our choices--such as a lack of skill or information, social pressure, perverse structural rewards, environment, etc.--and wrangle as many of them as we can to work in our favor, we may well be set up to fail. Click here to watch a short video that explains more.

"They just need to make better choices!" I hear that a lot. And not just about inmates.

This kind of sentiment often comes from people with a privileged perspective--people who, yes, had the will to make good choices and did, but who are often unaware of everything that worked in their favor and even more unaware of things working against the people they are criticizing.

Today, in fact, I saw again the old meme with the picture of the pointing finger of shame that reads, "Don't blame your behavior on someone else. You are 100% responsible no matter how bad you are feeling or what's happening in your life."

Yes, it is true, what the old meme says. Unless we lack some essential brain capacity, we are ultimately 100% responsible for the choices we make. Try as they might, no one can force us to behave in a certain way. At some point it requires us to choose whether to cooperate.

But, I want to shout, that is only part of the story. 

Not one of us makes our choices with perfect knowledge or ability. Not one of us makes our choices in a vacuum, independent of our environment. Sometimes we can't even see there is a better choice to make. If we fail to understand this we will continue to shame people, including, by the way, our own selves. And shame can be truly counterproductive.

What if, instead of pointing fingers of shame, we all opened up our eyes and saw the whole story? Imagine the power in that. Maybe we actually could change anything.


Megan said...

You're a keeper, Margy.

Louise Plummer said...

I like this so much. Will buy the book.