I had a revelation in Gospel Doctrine class yesterday. This revelation won’t be added to the Doctrine & Covenants. Indeed, it may not be a revelation with value for anyone else, but it was a new insight for me. I share it here in hopes that it may be valuable to others.
The topic of class was “change,” and the question on the table was the usual one: “why is it so hard to change?” I have written about change on T&S before, see here and here, but in each instance, the subject of change lay on the periphery. In this post, I tackle that subject head on.
I begin with the concept of inertia from physics. Inertia is the propensity of an object at rest to stay at rest or an object in motion to retain its velocity along a straight line until acted upon by an outside force. Organizational theorists have borrowed the concept of inertia to describe the fact that organizations often have trouble adapting to changes in their external environments.
Notice that this story does not exactly track the concept of inertia. Organizations are acted upon by outside forces (changes in external environments), but the organizations do not necessarily adapt. Why? Simply stated, because other forces resist change.
These forces may be internal or external to the organization. Internal constraints on organizational change include “the organization’s investment in capital equipment and trained personnel, constraints on the transfer and processing of information, the costs of upsetting the internal political equilibrium, and the conservative forces or history and tradition.” (W. Richard Scott, Organizations: Rational, Natural and Open Systems 221 (2003)) The external constraints include “legal and fiscal barriers to entry and exit from markets, binding contracts and other commitments, and the difficulty of securing the external political and social support needed to legitimate any change.” Id.
When we discuss personal change, as we did yesterday in my Gospel Doctrine class, the conversation usually focuses on a small subset of internal constraints, almost all related to lack of self-discipline or lack of faith. But what of the other constraints on change?
Let’s say that I decide to eat more vegetables. Implementing this decision requires more than a change of will. I need to shop differently, which may mean that I need to supplement my education. (There are how many varieties of potatoes!?) I may need to learn some new recipes or purchase new kitchen utensils. (Wok cooking, anyone?) Perhaps most importantly, my decision may meet with some resistance from my family. Obviously, the costs associated with this relative simple resolution are much higher than the cost of changing my tastes (which itself may be substantial).
Spiritual changes face the same sort of constraints. Our spiritual lives are intimately intertwined with our daily routines, and changing those routines requires more than changing our minds. It may require us to change the infrastructure of our lives.