Yes We Can* (Slowly)

Before I say anything else, I’d like you to watch the video above.  Surely, it may seem like something you watched in elementary school back in the day, but I think it carries some important messages.  Al Jarnow’s Cosmic Clock is basically an evolutionally flashbang, and they cram a whole lot of information into a 2 minute clip.  It’s pretty cool seeing our world, which is changing at an extremely slow pace, go through a billion years that quickly.  Perhaps it’s an ironic reflection on our technology driven culture, where we have the world at our fingertips and in our palms, and can use a host of social networking sites to connect with people on every continent.

We’ve become so conditioned to expect an immediate gratification that we forget that most things don’t happen instantaneously.  I think about this because of a wonderful conversation had in one of my classes today.  While discussing the impact that bullying and cyberbullying has on the lives of today’s children and adolescents, one of my professors noted that it’s important for educators to influence students views of personal and social responsibility, and be bold enough to make an impact early on.  Acting as a catalyst for change, we can quickly improve upon negative social behaviors and attitudes.

(I’m not so sure about that.)

After my professor recognized our importance in creating change, she also noted that physical education can and does serve as an avenue for many bullies to establish dominance and influence those around them.  I believe (and bullying research validates) that athletics and physical education provides prime time opportunities for bullies to do their thing.  Obviously, this shouldn’t be the case, and I completely agree that it’s important for change to occur.  I think it’s time for me to quote the POTUS and say, “Yes We can.*

Obama’s campaign slogan didn’t have that asterisk, but I think to note that change can be considered very simple or very difficult only in relation to a timeline.  As you saw in the video, amazing things can happen over the course of a billion years.  Trying to implement massive changes in much smaller time frames probably wouldn’t work out to well.  Let’s think about Michelle Rhee as an example:  She had a few really good ideas, but attempted to reform Washington D.C.’s education system so quickly that her efforts were met with massive backlash.

During my in-class discussion today, I disagreed with my professor about how quickly we can truly change society as a whole.  Even in a perfect world, where anti-bullying reforms can be implemented in every school in the country, we’re still going to have to wait a generation or two for a true turn around in behaviors, and that’s assuming 100% effectiveness.  It’s not an overnight change, and it requires the evolution of our values and belief systems.  These things, for better or for worse, are much stronger than the upcoming anti-cyber-bullying curriculum in New York state.  When we’re looking at change and considering society’s evolution, we’ve got plenty of time before big things happen.  However, I think she’s absolutely correct that change can be had quite rapidly, as in years, months, or even days.

Whether or not we’re talking bullying prevention, your success at a select personal goal, or just trying to be awesome, it’s naive to think that you’re going to have overnight large scale success.  We’re conditioned to expect information on demand through fiber optics and 4G networks, but most things happen much slower than that.  You’re not going to lose 50 lbs in 2 months, double your bench with a 12 week program, or quickly pack on pounds of muscle thanks to some weight gainer on BodyBuilding.com.  Most things take time and we have plenty of that around here; I don’t think the world is actually as fast as we want it to be.  Keep that in mind the next time you’re trying to set goals; we’ve got plenty of time.

I may sound rather pessimistic about making change in your life, but the truth is I’m rather optimistic about it.  Maybe not everything we can dream of is currently possible, but with enough hard work it will be done one day.  Stop thinking long term though; think short term.  You know what your final goal is, now you need to reverse engineer it to figure out what the first thing that you’re doing is.  Once you figure out each individual step, you’re set up for progress.

Think about an individual goal you have.  It could be something you want to accomplish tomorrow, or something that you want to accomplish in the next 50 years, or before you die.  Work backwards; what can you do today that will take you one step closer to achieving that goal?  Once you figure that out; do it.  I’ll end with another picture quote to help you think about that idea.

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