Feb 5, 2018
THE CHARACTER OF CHANGE: Part One of Four
Three fundamental aspects define the character of change. They come across as the essence and the extent to which human life is expressed. Within the limits of human experience, these fundamentals have always bordered on identity, mobility, and sustainability. The interplay between these in the right degrees, almost always results in sensibilities that humans perceive as belonging to a finer hue, or what is often regarded as the wheels of meaningful change.
In the annals of history, there is hardly a person or nation that went beyond the borders of mediocrity to the spheres of value-outcomes without truly putting into perspective the values inherent in own identity. As the norm, such an identity naturally seeks to transform itself within the currents of human dynamics through strategic positioning on creative pathways. The significance of an identity, however, is not hinged solely on values but includes as well the currency of constituent elements and their sustainability over time. With this in mind, let us examine the transformative pathways of human actions via identity, mobility, and sustainability.
Identity, a Reliable Currency
At birth, none of us was privileged to have a roadmap to follow through with life. Yet everything we have done, or hope to do, tend to suggest an endless search for self. Actually, it is a search to unravel who we are, where we are, and where we hope to be. Beyond its ordinary meaning, it is indeed a search for an identity. What then is an identity?
It presupposes the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. In broader terms, identity is also a close similarity or feeling of understanding. Who and what a person is goes beyond the physiological, it encompasses the person’s ‘signature strengths’ as well as the elements of the cultural. ‘Signature strengths’ refer to the potential of the individual, or those areas of relative advantage. The elements of the cultural, on the other hand, are those influences or values prevalent in the social milieu in which the individual operates. Often times, it is a combination of these elements of the human identity that translates into the mass character of human actions.
Great minds all over the world, or people who accomplished great feats in the course of history, are all products of unique identities or peculiarities. Their thought processes undoubtedly reckoned with their ‘signature strengths,’ which is who they truly are. Through the conscious expression of their natural capabilities within their cultural milieu, these people became the objects of their desire. The determinants of their outcomes in life, therefore, are not so much a game of chance but the wave of their inner strengths in outward expression. When contextualized in terms of the values and influences evident in such social settings, it becomes glaring that the reality of their being was a blend of the cultural and distinct ‘signature strengths.’ Thus, identity remains the currency they traded in the spheres of life.
It is interesting to note that nations of the world that have attained some level of greatness followed this trajectory at one time or the other. Take the Asian Tigers such as Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, for instance. Their rising socio-economic profiles on the global scene are an indication of their conscious efforts to unleash distinct sensibilities on the rest of the world. These sensibilities include the facts of whom and what they are, which has cultural implications, however modified this seem in the context of contemporary realities. What the Japanese and Chinese are exporting to the rest of humanity is not necessarily their expertise but the values inherent in their identities. This is also the case with the advanced nations.
In the corporate arena, identity remains the stock in trade. Regardless of the name it is called, identity is at the core of corporate survival and relevance. This is what brand, or branding is all about. If anything, the essence of a brand (an identity) is to flaunt the credentials of a corporate entity so as to carve a niche that would withstand the storms associated with competitive environments. The reason for this is quite clear. If you do not sing your song, nobody else will sing it for you. Also, it is recognition of the fact that what you will become tomorrow is determined largely by what you are today.
As individuals striving towards meaningful change, it is of utmost importance for us to realize that whether we had roadmaps with which to tread the paths of life at birth or not, we are still the proud owners of a unique currency we can easily trade to the rest of the world- – our identity. As a nation, we only need the political will to understudy the trajectories other countries took that gave them the edge. By applying the character of our identity in similar directions, we are certain of a unique place in the comity of nations.
Be Upwardly Mobile
According to a wise man, an idea whose time has come is like a freight train that is on the move. It cannot be stopped simply on a whim. The ability to recognize the intrinsic nature of one’s identity and its constituent elements in value-outcomes is likened to a freight train with its load of possibilities. However, fast-tracking the train towards a destination implies engaging gear and guiding it along various trails. This is necessary because life’s journey seldom unfolds with a single terminal. As an identity-seeking creature, the tendency to move from one sphere of experience to the other has always been part of man’s survival instincts. It is indeed man’s notion of progress. Yet it is not enough to be inspired by an identity. It is simply not enough to get the train rolling tentatively if it is not targeted at an outcome. Even when the outcome is specified, a sense of dynamism that clearly reflects the identity must come to bear as a matter of necessity.
Our notions of progress, therefore, are to be a step better than where we were yesterday, with our sights firmly fixed on where we ought to be tomorrow. What this boils down to is to be upwardly mobile; to always take the steps on the paths of life that help us bring out the best of our identity; to rely more often on the value streams of our being in consonance with the dynamics of life.
Most failures in life are as a result of sedentary lifestyles. People in this mold are better described as non-movers. They dream or fantasize about all the good things of life but are never too willing to strive towards the upward paths of their desires. So they remain where they are, overtaken as it were by those who strive to explore and conquer new frontiers. At times, the dreamers even acknowledge the beauty that goes with their identity and talk about their potential in a glowing light. Ironically, that is where their dreams end for they only talk and do little or nothing about their potential.
Strivers achieve what dreamers believe. These are the words of African American entertainer Usher Raymond. But they express the quality of human efforts in relation to the constant stretching of will by those who aim to advance beyond where they are at the moment. It is also a reminder that we appear to be limited by our circumstance because our sights are not fixed farther than enough. We are probably content seeing those things we want to see and never allowing ourselves to see those things we ought to see. We are content being where we are because we are afraid to go further than our already defined latitudes. Yet it is in fixing our sights high and in striving to reach the highest points that our strengths permit that we fulfill most of our dreams. Simply put, the mobility of ideas, or that of identity, characterizes great achievements.
Sustain the Momentum, Keep the Prize
So far we have seen the relationship between identity and mobility. However, the prizes or value-outcomes which these aspects engender can only endure the test of time when the momentum is sustained. By all standards, sustainability remains a factor that determines who succeeds and who fails. As a matter of fact, the difference between good and great is just a little extra effort. A typical example is the finals of the 100 meters race at the Beijing Olympics.
The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt left the starting blocks on a rather lackluster note (actually with a reaction time of 0.165 seconds), but built up momentum as the race progressed. By the time they crossed the 50 meters mark, Bolt’s impetus to set a standard had the better of him. Sustaining the momentum he had built up, he sped past the other competitors like a spirited gazelle. And by the time he crossed the finish line in 9.69 seconds (unofficially 9.683 seconds) with hands outspread in victory, he was well ahead of a crop of world-renowned sprinters with a large margin. A world record was not only set by this feat but Usain Bolt had defined the heights by which other sprinters would measure their successes or failures on the tracks for a very long time to come.
According to an online report, “Not only was the record set without a favorable wind (+0.0 m/s), but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied. Bolt’s coach reported that, based upon the speed of Bolt’s opening 60 m, he could have finished with a time of 9.52 s After scientific analysis of Bolt’s run by the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo, Hans Eriksen and his colleagues also predicted a sub 9.60 s time. Considering factors such as Bolt’s position, acceleration and velocity in comparison with second-place-finisher Thompson, the team estimated that Bolt could have finished in 9.55±0.04 s had he not slowed to celebrate before the finishing line.”
The lesson in this is sustained momentum. The tenacity to be upwardly mobile and the ability to keep the fire of zeal burning so intensely within, took him to such Olympian heights, especially with his winning of the 100 meters and 200 meters race in world record time. Two important races of his life; two significant world records; and twice a display of the character of sustained momentum.
We can only imagine the self-exertion, the hours of training and the effort required in getting that far. According to a Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) advert, “to beat the 100 meters world record, a man must take six steps every second…” The task appears Herculean; however, it does not mean it is insurmountable. It only requires sustaining a particular speed of action for a length of time. In Bolt’s case, it probably exceeded six steps per second, but the thing to note is his sense of commitment to sustaining the force of his will (‘signature strengths’ in the words of Martin Seligma) on the tracks.
Yes, we can!
We can imbibe the character of change if only we are willing to try. We all can turn our identity into a currency in the global economy if we are willing to maximize our strengths. We have all it takes to define our tomorrow if we take better steps than where we were yesterday. We can effectively build the future by creating it today. All that is required of us is to reckon with our identity as a people, redefine our mobility and fix our sights on its sustainability. Yes, we truly can make the difference!