Imagine living a life in which nothing changed.
I’m 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 honored, not regretted or derided. These actually reflect a sturdy permanence and consistency worth celebrating.
Think about it though – even among the steadiest of people – it’s hard to imagine a completely changeless existence.
And yet, there is one aspect of our lives where we wear changelessness as a badge of honor. I’m talking about our interpersonal behavior and our resistance to changing how we treat other people.
Like the sister we haven’t seen or spoken to in years because of some long-forgotten grievance. Or the neighbor we’ve 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 behaviors for as long as possible, with no regard for who is harmed. Only when it’s too late to undo the damage and we have reached some objective distance do we rethink our behavior and perhaps regret it.
When we prolong negative behavior – the kind that hurts the people we love or the kind that hurts us in some way – we are leading a changeless life in the most hazardous manner. We are willfully 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 I’d ask of you right now, it’s to think about one chance, one gesture that you won’t regret later on. That’s the only criterion: you won’t feel sorry you did it! Maybe it’s 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 you’ve always done and would continue doing forever if you hadn’t 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.