Tipping Point

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Tomorrow isn’t devoid of the past. Shedding natural consequences of neglectful action doesn’t happen with a good night sleep. The past continues into the present. The past, in many ways, isn’t the past at all, but a prominent part of the ever living present. Markedly, the past flows into every new day. The process of change is discouraging. We want to create a new life but the old life intrudes. Poking fun at our efforts to change. However, when we persist, new behaviors accumulate, we reach a tipping point, and life significantly transforms.

​An intellectual grasp on the complex intertwining of past and present magnifies the importance of constructive action in the present. The individual moment includes all the yesterdays and springboards our lives into the tomorrows. Our history sets the trajectory of our lives; today we either mindlessly follow that trajectory, giving way to fate or we courageously adjust, creating new trajectories for the following tomorrows.

We can change the course of an unfulfilling life. And a flourishing life requires just that.

Tomorrow is a New Day

The in vogue message that tomorrow is a new day and that yesterday doesn’t matter is overly idealistic, giving hope, sometimes inspiring healthy change. I get it. I understand the purpose behind the one day at a time mantra. Tomorrow isn’t completely dependent on yesterday. The drug addict may abandon his slavery to the needle, the abused lover may find safety, and the chaotic person may create structure. But these major life changes take time, continual effort. But with persistence, we reach a tipping point.

​We can change. The unsavory life can reform. The chronically depressed can find peace. The angry can enjoy calmness. Change is possible—trajectories change. Past patterns that wreak havoc are not unchangeable. In this sense, tomorrow is a new day.

“The individual moment includes all the yesterdays and springboards into the tomorrows.”

~T. Franklin Murphy

Trajectories, Momentum, and Tipping Points

Changes don’t magically occur. The longer the boulder rolls down hill and the heavier the rock, the more difficult the work to change the path. No waving of a magical wand washes away the path; we must approach these rolling stones with caution and patience, courageous undertaking a prolonged and arduous project. We must summon additional resources to succeed. We start by making a few healthier choices. The consequences of the past continue to linger, still influencing the present but the introduction of new behaviors begin their work to shape the tomorrows.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

~​Thomas Carlyle

We must accept the moment—consequences from the past and all. When we compassionately accept this moment (with its struggles, weaknesses, strengths, joys and sorrows), we strengthen our resolve for change. Past choices may limit opportunities today, but by continuing on our new path things will begin to change, creating new opportunities somewhere in the future.

Malcolm Gladwell explains that there is a ” magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire” (2002). Changing trajectories is constrained by the tipping point. At first efforts provide little reward, however, as the trajectory begins to slow, work becomes noticeable, and then we reach the tipping point. New rewards begin to flow and life transforms.

Effort Required to Reach a Tipping Point

Changing trajectories requires force. Without force, the momentum continues forward, gaining momentum. Initially new behaviors go unnoticed against the powers of the past. The following days, weeks and even months seem unchanged—the same limiting forces continue to impose their will on our lives. We continue to feel the residual pain.

​The past continues to influence emotions, responses, and the environment even after our introduction of significant changes; but as we faithfully continue with new healthy habits, eventually the positive deviations take hold—relationships strengthen, debts shrink, and opportunities materialize. Our efforts altered the trajectory, creating a healthier past and a brighter future.

During the process of change, we eventually arrive at a juncture—the tipping point—where positive actions that have accumulated and now outweigh the past, and life dramatically changes. Many give up before arriving at this tipping point, slipping back into old routines and familiar pain from comforting consequences.

Courage! Patience! Persistence!

​You can make it through the bleak days of change and flourish in the light of new life, less encumbered by the distant past. The tipping point is waiting, pull back your shoulders, summon assistance and continue to trudge forward.

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Gladwell, Malcolm (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Back Bay Books.

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