Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Changing My Mind

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 15, 2010

This essay, Changing My Mind, is the companion piece to It was conceived at the same time as

When I change my mind I'm stopping what I said I would do and what I was originally doing, and now I'm doing something different, something which is neither in sequence with what I originally said I would do nor with what I was originally doing.

There was a time in the past when I rarely if ever changed my mind once I said I'll do something and started doing it. For me this was the definition of keeping my word. It was the basis of the tenets "a promise is a promise"  and "a man's word is his bond". For me it was also the foundation of integrity  - or at least it was the foundation of whatever I considered integrity to be. But the trouble with never  changing my mind (not to mention being right  about never changing my mind), my erstwhile views of integrity aside, was more often than not it made things heavy  and significant.

Integrity, as far as I could tell, was more than the straight and narrow path. It was also the straight and narrow path to freedom. To live outside the law, after all, you must be honest (as Bob Dylan may have said). The way I had it set up was once I give my word I must  keep my word - in other words there's no changing my mind, there's no going back on my word once I've made a promise.

This way of thinking goes way back  to my very first lessons in Life both in school and in religion and morality. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I got changing my mind  tangled up with breaking my word, and I already had breaking my word categorized as a bad  thing. Furthermore I got breaking my word tangled up with being out of integrity, and I had already had being out of integrity categorized as a very  bad thing.

It's taken me a while to get this way of thinking (well intentioned as it may be) unstuck  from integrity. It's taken me a while to distinguish between what I consider to be the right thing to do (ie morality), and integrity. It's taken me a while to get I can change my mind and still be in integrity. I've realized never  changing my mind no matter what, restricts creativity and innovation. It's more than that actually: it's likely to interfere with and impede doing what works.

This looking at new possibilities for changing my mind is a very thin ice  conversation. It's a very  slippery slope. Where, for example, is the line between changing my mind without any regard for a promise made and integrity entrusted, and changing my mind keeping a high regard for a promise made and integrity entrusted? Who I am in this matter is, for me, a high regard for a promise made and integrity entrusted.

I'm not proposing to make changing my mind acceptable, especially when I've promised to do something, especially when my integrity is entrusted. I'm not looking for a way to make breaking my word  OK. I'm not wanting an easy way out of tough choices. What I'm proposing rather is an appropriate, empowering context in which there's a freedom to change my mind and  honor the promise made and the integrity entrusted.

From time to time airline pilots have to recalibrate  their flight plans. They have to invoke mid-course corrections. They say they'll be flying to, say Nadi Fiji. They give a flight time and a direction they'll be traveling. In effect, they make a promise to get to Nadi in so many hours flying in such and such a direction. If this flight path, it turns out later, would fly them into the eye of a hurricane, they would have to change their flight plans. They must. They would, in effect, have to change their mind. And because they're the pilots entrusted with the safety of their passengers, there would be no doubt whatsoever that changing their mind has integrity.

This is what works for me: recognizing the integrity in changing my mind, and recognizing it in a much bigger  context than keeping my word. In the case of the pilots flying to Nadi into the eye of a hurricane, yes the immediate promise is to get to Nadi in so many hours flying in such and such a direction. But the bigger  context for their promise is to get all their passengers to Nadi safely. Clearly this context for changing their mind works.

There's one last thing to consider. My integrity in changing my mind isn't violated if I don't keep my word because my integrity wasn't ever in the domain of keeping my word in the first place. My integrity lives in the domain of honoring  my word. As with everything I've gotten from listening Werner, the distinction between honoring my word as the context for integrity rather than keeping my word as the context for integrity is both subtle and profound. It's another distinction in the rich body of distinctions titled "Distinctions which, once gotten, transform Life".

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