It's a deep paradox: the only person that any of us can actually change is ourself --- but instead, we all spend most of our time trying to change other people!

Why? Perhaps we find altering our own behavior hard, or unpleasant much of the time. Perhaps we fantasize that changing others will be a high-leverage activity, with much good produced if we can only persuade many individuals to do as we tell them. (Somehow we rarely dream of placing ourself in the rôle of merely following instructions.) Perhaps we see ourself as powerless, without influence, so that modifying ourself will make no difference to the world.

In 1974, as a new arrival on campus I was browsing in the Astronomy Department's collection of books when a kindly librarian asked me who I was. "Just a grad student," I replied. She promptly scolded me soundly (and correctly) for using the word Just in that answer! Graduate students are important, like junior employees in a company, like children in a family, and like everyone else. The people who aren't significant are those who stop learning and changing (themselves!).

Thursday, May 20, 1999 at 21:41:50 (EDT) = 1999-05-20

TopicLife - TopicLibraries - TopicPersonalHistory

(correlates: AsymmetricChallenges, PolicyMaking, PowerAsPerception, ...)