Thursday, August 30, 2007

The MAthematics of Change

Fall is here and that means more newspaper pieces. HEre is one for next week!

We live in a changing world. That much is certain. And yet why do we often find it so hard to change? Even when we think we are ready to change it seems that we easily get stuck in old ruts, old habits. What stops us? Is it just fear or is it maybe something mathematical?

Yes, that’s right I said mathematics might be our problem.

Last spring I was introduced to an equation for change. It is: MC=fp(fv)(fs). Expanded that means Movement for Change=felt pain x future vision x first steps. The important part of the equation is that it is multiplication. Think back to your school days, what happens when you multiply by zero? The answer is always going to be zero. In our equation above, if any of the variables are missing then change doesn’t happen.

The first variable, felt pain, is easy. Many people, many communities, have that in abundance. Often much of it comes out of that experience Bob Dylan sings about – the times they are a-changin’. As things change we feel pain and grief. But that isn’t enough to change. We need a sense of where we are headed (future vision) and we need to get started (first steps).

So how do we fill in the blanks? Where do we find a vision? Well we begin with asking why we are here. Then we ask what our ideal result would be. For people of faith these questions are intricately linked to our understanding of God’s plan. What is needed for us to be the people (or the church, or the town, or the nation) that God would have us be? As we explore these questions a vision or goal starts to appear.

That leaves possibly the hardest part of the equation – the first steps. Once we have found a vision, once we know here we are headed, why is it so hard to get going. Often this is where the fear kicks in. Maybe the vision leads us to a place very different from where we have been before. That is scary. Maybe the vision has holes in it and the first few tries might not work exactly. Failure also is scary. But remember that multiplying by zero equals zero. We have to conquer the fear and take the first steps. And for people of faith there is help in remembering that we are not alone. We live, move, and have our being in God. With God’s help, we can take risky steps, we can step out into the unknown, we can embrace change.

What felt pain do you have? What vision do you have for the future? What is the first step in your new path? Where will the mathematics of change take you?


  1. That's something with a lot to chew on. Thanks for this. What's the origin of the equation?

  2. The theme speaker at our Annual Conference meeting in June shared it. HE said he couldn't remember where he got it from.