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Change can be a slow process – and that’s the way it should be

Magically these types are able to cut through the pesky multifactorial complex and not fully understood nature of the relationships between things like psychological processes, diet, exercise and Labor branch stacking.

No, for the gurus, the solution is always a simple cause and effect. I did a dance, and then it rained! Ergo, dancing causes rain! I am a rainmaker! Eat Peruvian nose flute cheese, and see how it improves your complexion! Add dromedaries’ droppings to your quinoa to strengthen your gag reflex. (Well that might actually work, I suppose.)

The trouble is, as it is known in the biz, correlation does not mean causation. Just because two things appear to be directly related (highly correlated) doesn’t mean one causes the other. A quick perusal of the wonderful Tyler Vigen’s website provides enough warning signs.


For instance did you know that between 1999 and 2009 the number of films Nick Cage appeared in was highly correlated to the number of people who drowned in swimming pools in the USA? Or that there is a near perfect relationship between per capita cheese consumption and people becoming tangled by their bed sheets? Or as the consumption of margarine dropped in Maine, so did the divorce rate?

We all want change to be easy – for there to be a simple formula or key – so we can effect the changes we want to see. Usually, if we want the transformation we want it to happen quickly. The more we want the change, but feel helpless to make it, the more we are susceptible to the lure of simple formulas or are prepared to believe in spurious correlations.

Ultimately, our desire to understand change reflects our desire to control, and perhaps over-control our lives. This does not mean we should not try to change in desirable ways, or that we are powerless. But it does mean that we also need to accept that change can be slow, hard and sometimes as limited as life itself. Self-acceptance also means accepting what cannot be readily changed.

Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright

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