Friday, April 11, 2014

Behavior change: taking the long view

Rome… Built in a day? Nope. The mangosteen tree, native to Southeast Asia, grows for 8 to 15 years before bearing its exquisitely tasty fruit. Construction of the basilica la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has been under construction since 1882. The current estimate for its completion is 2028.
La Sagrada Familia: see you for the
completion ceremony in 2028!

Good things take time, but these days it’s easy to fall prey to the instant-gratification, results-now trap. The ever-increasing pace of technology, the 24-hour news cycle, pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less—we come to expect results/answers/satisfaction NOW. 

Contrast our restlessness with the patience of magicicada, the cicada that lurks for 17 years deep in the dark earth sucking on tree roots before finally emerging to mate.  

Nature has its own timetable, human nature included. Behavioral change, like that we create through the Communities That Care prevention system, is a slow, steady process that builds over years. There are no shortcuts.

If we want a senior in high school to make the choice not to drink, smoke, steal, or commit an act of violence, we must begin that journey of prevention early in his or her life. Efforts in behavior change that work must get ahead of the curve, and they must change the entire landscape of the community, shifting the culture for the better, for now and into the future. 

The Communities That Care prevention system engages not just the individual, but also his or her family, peer group, school, church, clubs, and so on. The whole community must get on board, as seen in the creation of our 2013-14 Community Action Plan, which involved the active participation of >100 individuals from >57 organizations.

If we want to create lasting change so that our culture is one that promotes healthy youth development, we cannot take shortcuts and we must work together. The payoff, if we’re patient, is priceless… and right now we can proceed with the satisfaction that we are creating something great.