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Sharon Astyk has written a remarkable book called Depletion and Abundance. Sharon also writes a blog called Casaubon’s Book. It deals with the twin fossil fuel crises – peak oil and Global Warming. Her response is to revive local sufficiency. She points out that most of the changes needed (and they are massive) can lead to an improved life rather than a more impoverished one: more time with friends and family, shorter commutes and so on. Sharon writes clearly and engagingly and relates her work to a broad selection of literature (she uses her academic background well). It is a great book and on a hugely important topic. I most definitely recommend it.
One of the questions that Sharon deals with is how to bring enough change in the time available. She points out that most groups attempting to bring change are made up of highly committed people. These groups do great and important work but most people simply don’t have the time and energy to be involved. We need a different model if most people are to be involved in change.
The model that Sharon proposes so that most people can be involved in social change she call “The Church Model”. (Sharon lives in the US where this is most true but it applies to other places too. It also applies to most voluntary associations with large memberships – such as sports clubs.)
These groups she points out have three characteristics:
low barriers to entry
something to offer immediately
a plan and routine for dealing with crises.
This means that anyone can walk into a church (or join a footy club), they get something immediate for joining (socialising, exercise, a transcendent experience of worship, a way to improve fitness) and there is a longer and broader perspective (change of lifestyle to achieve a desired goal – saintliness, winning a season or becoming a dominant club).
I think this is well worth thinking about for personal change too. Here is my take on how it would apply to making personal changes.
low barrier to entry: make it easy to start
something to offer immediately: make the change feel good
a plan and routine for dealing with crises: make it a new lifestyle.
Here are a couple of ways of applying the “Church Model” of personal change. First to fitness and then to a relationship.
Rather than setting out to end up in marathons, (rush out buy shoes, food diary, researching stretching and training routines and so on);
can I find ten minutes to go for a walk today? (Oh yeah, that’s pretty easy)
do I feel better for it? (come to think of it I do)
can I make this part of my lifestyle? (pretty easily. I can see myself doing it even on holidays or busy days and even perhaps extending it to twenty minutes or more each day longer term.)
Reviving a Flagging Sex Life
Rather than memorising the Kama sutra and enrolling in a series of tantric sex workshops;
can we spend ten minutes just holding each other today? (that feels nice)
do I feel better for it? (sure, it’s nice, I’m more relaxed, and we’re more in tune with each other)
can I make this part of my lifestyle? (certainly. And we can probably find an hour or so now and again as well in the longer term.)
Big plans and a large vision may be important to help us think more widely and to realise that there is an alternative to the rut we are in. They can also end up with us feeling depressed that we aren’t getting there fast enough or that our goal wasn’t realistic (it takes a good few hours a week to train for a marathon). Starting with what we can do immediately and with a change that feels good is very likely to be successful. It is a pleasurable way to a better life – which sounds like a good recipe for the best chance of success.
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