Change – Bringing about a Sustainable Creative World

François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840 – 1917) fabulous sculpture – The Thinker – How many of us take time out each day and create a space around ourselves in order that we might ‘think’?

Most of our challenges personally, professionally, economically and politically are all man made, while nature is and remains beyond, and completely outside our control. It is how we look at, or view things that count.

Attitude is everything. We can choose to get up every day in a grumpy mood and be negative until we go back to sleep again, just existing through the day. On the other hand we can choose to get up facing each day as a new start, put a smile on our dial, be positive and continue to move forward. No one said it’s easy, in fact it is often *&^%$# hard, but there it is. The choice is ours.

Change is threatening to the fearful …it means things may get worse*

One thing for sure is that we need to be aware that our mood affects everyone else around us and their performance as well. So it really is a case of do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Studies in human behaviour are reaching critical mass at the moment, with the huge generational paradigm shift happening all over the world. Theories and models of societal change are being held up to scrutiny and review.

This includes theories, concepts and real data gathered by psychologists, health, leisure, recreational, physical activity and exercise psychology teams.

Individuals it seems have gained precedence over studies of groups, organizations and communities. However this surely must change in light of recent disastrous events like floods in Australia, a Tsunami in Japan and an Earthquake in New Zealand.

To respond to the many challenges we face together as the climate, and the conditions under which we live continue their path of evolutionary change, what multiple studies do reveal is that we all must learn to adapt more quickly and seek to change our personal behaviour as a matter of urgency.

To do this we need to become more actively engaged with the social institutions that sustain us.

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it**

Some say revitalizing community action is the key to transforming traditions and natural forces. Some very committed people and organizations are helping to bring this about all over the world. We cannot however change outmoded out-dated policies, and put new informed practices into place, unless we take considered action.

What we do know is that people, no matter what their creed, cause or culture, consistently resist change. In a progressive society change is both present, and constant, and so sharing knowledge and talking about the challenges we need to surmount together as a society will help.

We need to be positive, active and take action if we want to bring about a sustainable creative world to leave to our children and theirs.

Each ‘natural’ event that happens involves large groups and communities of people that need to be mobilized quickly to act to help, or otherwise move away from imminent danger.

In many instances nature is in fact so overwhelming and events happen so fast, that all the careful planning in the world would not prevent some measure of tragedy. Some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While these days we can predict weather to a certain degree it remains unpredictable as well. The devastating flash floods at Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley in Queensland in 2011 proved this point.

Also we still cannot predict with any real certainty when major earthquakes or volcanic eruptions will occur, let alone meteor strikes. And, we are completely unaware of just how many of the choices that we make on a daily basis really affect outcomes.

Scholars have pinpointed that it was Bankers collectively taking excessive risks that caused the Financial Crisis of 2008 in America. This was what political sociologist Anthony Glidden’s calls a manufactured uncertainty.  He says ‘our day-to-day activities are increasingly influenced by events that are happening on the other side of the world. Conversely, local lifestyle habits have become globally consequential. Thus my decision to buy a certain item of clothing in Australia now has implications not only for the international division of labour, but also for the earth’s ecosystems.’

This is because, like it or not, we are now a global cosmopolitan society in which tradition is changing its status. There is a global economy under human control in a domain of dangerous often-manufactured uncertainty that has come about as a result of cultural differences, social inequalities, scientific knowledge, scientific advancements as well as global environmental challenges.

The other day I read an alarming statistic about how long it takes to generally change just one pattern of personal behaviour. On average 66 days.  The report noted that people moving about often in their jobs are particularly vulnerable. They cannot work well unless they have confidence and an ability to affect, and deal with rapid change.

To bring about any sort of behavioural change we are required to go through a sequence of steps to adopt a new practice, to learn how to maintain it and then how to deal with any relapses in our behaviour along the way.  No one said it was going to be easy.

The challenges faced by new parents in each generation require them to fall back at first on knowledge gained from their own parents. However they also have to edit those behaviours in light of new knowledge and other facts, scientific or otherwise. A good parent doesn’t simply do what their parents did before them. They question, they take a stand about their right to work out how best to raise their own children.  Past, present and future have to be considered together.

One example of an urban myth affected generations of women. My mother’s generation (born in the second two decades of the 20th century) put their babies outside every day for a ‘sun kick’. This behaviour was not new.

It had started in Ireland, where one side of the family had first hand experience with a dreadful condition called rickets. It caused a softening of the bones in children. To combat the disease women, like my great grandmother (born in the last two decades of the 19th century) were taught by doctors, village elders and matrons to put their children out into the sun as they knew it was beneficial, but not really why at the time.

The family like so many others in Ireland fled to Australia in 1843/4, the year after the worst potato blight plague in history, bringing this regular behaviour along with them. The practice of ‘sun kicks’ remained unquestioned until my generation was having babies from the late 1960’s in Australia.

By then knowledge of how damaging the Australian sun was on unprotected skin, especially babies skin was becoming widely available. My Doctor, who had eight children,  informed me that Australia was not Ireland. He also told me to explain it to my mother, who simply would not, and did not ever believe him so ingrained had been her instruction.

So there I was 120 years later limiting my children’s exposure to sun, while earning a great deal of censure from my mother and sisters (all of whom were 12 – 20 years older than me).

Today because of medical research knowledge being shared we know that the rickets the Irish feared so much is caused by a lack of vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium. It also had a lot to do with the poor conditions they lived under early in the 19th century, when there was both a lack of nutritional food and sunshine.

It’s a terrible disease and still rife in developing countries all over the world. We know that a degree of sunlight lets human skin cells convert Vitamin D from an inactive to an active state. Too much of it however can cause skin cancer, and other medical problems for those with English and European white, fair or very sensitive skin.

So was anyone right and who was wrong?

Well it’s not just a matter of black or white, that dreaded grey area tells another tale.

My eldest son and I have been prescribed Vitamin D by the Doctor because we live in Victoria. He works indoors at a computer most of the day and as the weather is constantly appalling, he simply cannot garner enough sun to make the difference, despite walking to work and going outside to fetch his lunch on week days.

On the other hand his brother in Sydney where the weather is kinder, rides a bike often and walks a dog in the park daily, so is able to keep his levels stable. His youngest brother in Queensland is fine… just walking to the bus to go to work can give him an overdose of sun and cancer. He has to slip, slop, slap the 30+ lotion constantly and yes you guessed, has no Vitamin D problems.

So it is all about advice received, tempered by an application of good old common sense, a great deal of local knowledge, and the knowledge of hindsight. But then everything is definitely better in hindsight.

In professional or personal life people in the main do not wish to appear unprofessional or uncooperative during periods of change. No matter how confident they are any change in their daily lives and routines may force them to grapple with fears that others may think silly, but for them are very real.

This is something I can relate to from experience. So the only advice I can share is that in order to be prepared for any contingency in the future we all have become clever about the method we devise to survive situations like those the people in NZ, Japan or Queensland faced.

Putting together an urban survival kit to have readily at hand is perhaps one positive. Goodness how would Angelina Jolie have got on without hers when she pulled it out of a chest so that she could flee from those chasing her in the movie Salt.

A few people I know have done this. A small backpack would include some cash money, identity card, credit card in case ATM’s still work, a notebook, pen that works, keys, glasses, phone, small bottle of water, Dettol gel cleaner, sewing needles and thread, a couple of protein health bars, plus any other items you consider vital to your safety, security and well-being.

A spare pair of knickers and deodorant can be helpful wgeb traveling and your bags get lost for a few days. As it’s small, and a backpack, you will also have your hands free to help yourself and others if there is an emergency. Having these items with you will make your own, as well as others easier, especially those who may rescue you. Sobering thoughts, but necessary.

So how do we change our behaviour? Well getting our head in the right space by having a good attitude is more than half the battle. Like the heroine Scarlett O’Hara in the epic novel Gone with the Wind we have to truly believe ‘tomorrow is another day’.

It is the most crucial characteristic each and every one of us can work on improving every day. Those who only see the glass half empty are in a battle constantly with themselves and those around them. The people who see the glass as half full look forward to challenges and inspire everyone else.

Having a chip on your shoulder, being jealous or judgmental of others all the time must be an exhausting stressful state for anyone to be in.

Attitudes are generally changed by experience or by communication, which is the key.

It includes developing an ability to listen so that you can fairly balance both sides of a story. Specialists tell us it is not easy having an ability to switch on and off at will. It is the mechanism whereby we deliberately control our actions and reactions. Even though common sense may come into it our ability to ignore good advice is informed by ego and stubborn streaks of character, which can be in the gene pool and hard to penetrate.

This becomes obvious in a classroom where a teacher will provide 20 – 30 pupils with the same information. But how they assimilate it or action it will be entirely different.

A lot depends on their attitude; their ability to exercise free will, which is impacted on by how they have been raised; what position they occupy in the hierarchy of their family and, if in their own family their opinions count. Then there are all sorts of emotions and different ages to consider.

Perceptions for all people are important and completely impinge on everyone’s daily actions.

So how might you respond to knowledge shared about how citizens can and should change? And do you believe it is important? Comments welcome.

Carolyn McDowall The Culture Concept Circle, 2011, 2012 +

Attached for you to download is an interesting 86 page report ‘Changing the Subject’ commissioned by the RSA at London.

*Part Quote American inventor Eli Whitney (1765-1825)

** Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 – 180)

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