Friday, January 11, 2013

Alex Martins (Photo: Paul Briggs) Not all stories of change have to be dramatic 'Damascus Road' type experiences, writes Alex Martins. Some change may be more gradual, but no less profound.

Many in Initiatives of Change speak of their ‘story of change.’ For some, an apology or a decision to forgive allowed a previously difficult relationship to flourish; for others, time spent in quiet led to a complete change of heart or a new course of action. I have always found these stories to be inspiring examples of possibility, somehow never quite realizing that I might have one of my own.

Although my life has taken a very different course since becoming a part of IofC, I can’t put my finger on any precise ‘ah-ha’ moments when I felt or acted entirely differently. I mistakenly believed this meant I had no story of change to tell. I’m beginning to realize now, more than two years after first coming into contact with IofC through Creators of Peace, that change doesn’t always feel obvious or radical. Often it's the imperceptible shifts in our day-to-day lives that ultimately have the biggest impact on how we feel.

One of these shifts is that I’ve begun to believe, really believe, that sustainable personal change is possible. I have fought many internal battles over my apparent inability to change certain aspects of myself, despite consulting several (rather useless) self-help books. Now, I am part of a community that encourages self-reflection, provides positive examples of change and offers support to those who seek transformation. Being part of such a community empowers me to reflect on my core values and to begin aligning my actions with what my conscience is telling me.

As an example: During an IofC UK Fellowship Weekend back in May, I decided to become a vegetarian. I’ve toyed with the idea for probably ten years now, ever since I was a teenager sensitive to the suffering of animals, but never gathered the courage necessary to sacrifice eating meat. Surprisingly, I quit cold turkey that weekend (pardon the pun) and haven’t looked back since. Giving up meat no longer seems like a sacrifice; rather, it is a golden opportunity to listen to and live according to my conscience. It’s no coincidence that I finally managed to take the plunge after deep reflection and feeling positive reinforcement from those around me.

I have noticed other shifts in the way that I think about the world, most less clear-cut than the decision to become vegetarian. But I still struggle daily with living the changes I went to see in society, and with the commitment to keep a steady course.

I now realize that when I hear those inspiring stories of change by people in IofC, they tell of the beginning of a journey, not its end. Personal transformation comes about not from one momentous act of change, but a compilation of smaller, persistent acts that lead to lasting change. The on-going challenge for me is to keep up the momentum of these acts, to adapt to new situations and confront challenges as they arise.

I’m still in the very initial stages of my personal journey to align everything I do with my values, but I feel that I’ve taken the first big step – to acknowledge my own capability to make change and to know, deep down, that it is possible.

Alex Martins is the Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Initiatives of Change International. She first came across IofC as a volunteer at the Caux Forum for Human Security in 2011, and served as its Communications Director in 2012.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.