If there's one thing I've learned in my adult life, it's that there is simply too much time in our lives to expect change to occur immediately. This has to do with our professional lives, our relationship lives, our political lives, and nearly every other facet of our existence. Sure, actions can change immediately -- but habits and trends take time.
As a former baseball player, it reminds me of players who had hitches in their swings. Reminding a batter once that he was dropping his hands might change the next swing, but it would likely return within a few more. It was about constant reminders, a couple of good reps, and eventual change.
This is similar to personal changes. About six years ago, I remember feeling that I had a deficiency in sincerity -- an overabundance of cynicism -- that permeated my worldview. It made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy life's simplicities. I forced myself to begin practicing gratitude daily -- just listing a few things I was grateful for every time I caught myself engaging in a negative thought pattern. I might thank the universe for my family, for The Beatles, or for the laughter I would get from someone tripping and falling. Anything. Years later, I feel transformed due to this slow, steady process.
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a good friend Roy Zimmerman many years ago. Roy is a political satirist who writes witty songs about social and political change, and I was fortunate enough to garner up the funds to have him play a show at my college in 2006 and 2007 (please check out his catalogue on YouTube or at www.royzimmerman.com). Over the course of these visits, we talked about the state of the world at great lengths. As a wanna-be activist, young-minded college student, I remember expressing my dissatisfaction with the state of our society. My calls for change probably sounded more like complaints and demands than hopeful, positive ideas. I won't forget how Roy responded:
"When you think about how far we've come in such a short time, though. I mean, 40 years ago we were still segregating bathrooms. Your generation wouldn't even consider doing such a thing."
I thought that was some beautiful perspective. In other words, had progressive minds in 1964 demanded IMMEDIATE change -- not only in policy but in practice -- they would have felt like all of the activism had failed. Looking 40 years into the future, however, the notion of separate bathrooms had become so foreign it was comical.
I have a feeling the same will be said in another 40 years for gender pay equality, same-sex marriage, climate change, and many other issues we all feel are somewhat hopeless in our current social and political landscape. Things may never eventually be perfect, but it's hard to deny the constant growth going on around us.
So in conclusion, I urge everyone to exercise some long-term perspective when it comes to the changes we want to see in each other, in ourselves, and in the world around us. Systemic change takes time -- it's irrational to put a countdown on when something should happen. So be vigilant, be patient, and be hopeful. Things are getting better.