Imagine living a life in which nothing changed.
Iím not talking about working at the same company your entire adult life, or staying married to the same person for fifty years, or never leaving the community you were born in. Those are choices to be honoured, not regretted or derided. These actually reflect a sturdy permanence and consistency worth celebrating.
Think about it though Ė even among the steadiest of people Ė itís hard to imagine a completely changeless existence.
And yet, there is one aspect of our lives where we wear changelessness as a badge of honour. Iím talking about our interpersonal behaviour and our resistance to changing how we treat other people.
Like the sister we havenít seen or spoken to in years because of some long-forgotten grievance. Or the neighbour weíve seen for years that we still, out of inertia or shyness, have never introduced ourselves to. Or the scolding response we display when a child disappoints us.
We take a foolish pride in prolonging some behaviours for as long as possible, with no regard for who is harmed. Only when itís too late to undo the damage and we have reached some objective distance do we rethink our behaviour and perhaps regret it.
When we prolong negative behaviour Ė the kind that hurts the people we love or the kind that hurts us in some way Ė we are leading a changeless life in the most hazardous manner. We are wilfully choosing to be miserable and making others miserable too. The time we are miserable is time we can never get back. Even more painful, it is our doing. It is our choice.
So, if there is one thing Iíd ask of you right now, itís to think about one chance, one gesture that you wonít regret later on. Thatís the only criterion: you wonít feel sorry you did it! Maybe itís calling your mother to tell her you love her. Or thanking a customer for his loyalty. Or saying nothing, instead of saying something cynical in a meeting.
It could be anything, as long as it represents a departure from what youíve always done and would continue doing forever if you hadnít read these words.
Now do it.
It will be good for your friends. It will be good for your company. It will be good for your customers.
It will be good for your family.
And it will be even better for you. So much better that you might even want to do it again.