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Monday, March 25, 2013

Leo Tolstoy

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."

— Leo Tolstoy
Russian Writer
1828 - 1910

Most of us at some point in our lives have a desire to change the world — to change how the world works and how others behave.  Some of us outgrow these desires and others spend a lifetime of activism.  Some of us become cynical and dropout.  Others rant and rave against the system.  Yet few of us ever think about changing ourselves.  

The perfect example is marriage.  I bet everyone whoever marries attempts at some point to change the behavior of his or her spouse.  Maybe it is putting down the toilet seat.  Or trying to change the spending habits.  We have all tried to change a spouse and nine times of ten we have failed.  You cannot change other people easily because most people resisted the efforts of others to change them.  If you want the marriage to be successful, you must learn to first change yourself.  And if you are successful, you will change the other person in the process.

As creative leaders, we must learn to work on ourselves first.  If your writing or your paintings are rejected, don't blame the editors and the gallery owners.  Look inside.  What do you need to do differently?  What do you need to change?  

Lasting change comes from within, not from without.  What work habits do you need to change?  What habits of procrastination do you need to change?  What attitudes do you need to change?  Changing a habit does not happen overnight.  Some experts say that it takes a minimum of 21 days to change a habit.  Changing yourself is not easy, but with hard work it can be done.  You can change who you are by changing what goes into your mind and heart.  

I believe the heart drives change more than the brain.  Most people know intellectually that smoking is harmful to one's life and yet many people are unable to stop.  You have to emotionally want to change for change to happen.  Our emotions are the basis for change.  Love for another person can motivate someone to change his behavior.  Fear can be a powerful motivation for change.

Creative Practice:
This week choose some habit that you would like to change and begin the work necessary for the change.  Remember that it takes at least three weeks for the change to take hold.  Commit yourself to the change.  Believe that you can change.  Choose to change.  Plant seeds of hope in your heart.

Born in the Tula Province of Russia, Tolstoy was the youngest of four boys.  He was two when his mother died and nine when his father passed away.  He was raised by his aunts.  French and German tutors provided his early education at home.  At fifteen he enrolled at the University of Kazan but failed to graduate because of partying to excess instead of studying.  He attempted to become a farmer on his parents' estate but failed as well.  He did develop the habit of keeping a journal.  After failing at farming, he joined the army and fought in the Crimean War.

Tolstoy published his first story, Childhood, in The Contemporary when he was 24.  His greatest novel, War and Peace, was published in 1869.  Anna Karenina, the second of his best novels, was published in installments between 1873 - 1877 to critical and public acclaim.

After the writing of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy suffered a spiritual crisis.  He rejected the Russian Orthodox Church because he felt it was corrupt.  He developed his own unconventional  and controversial spiritual beliefs.  His later fiction was more moralistic than his earlier work.

The Last Station, a movie about the last year of Tolstoy's life, was released in 2009.  Here is the trailer.