An Open Mind

By: Jessica Stavole, Energy and Built Environment Working Group Project Intern

I used to wish that time would stop, that it would stand still long enough for me to develop and see all of my ideas come to fruition through my actions.  Yet, the other day, I came across a grandfather clock that had the Latin words “Tempus fugit” inscribed above it.  Translated to mean “time flees”, that grandfather clock reminded me of our vulnerability as individuals and how surprising and unexpected some events in our lives can be.  Every day, it seems as if I encounter a new person, a new experience, a change or an idea, leading me to believe that there is much to be learned and even more to accomplish.


My friend shared a philosopher with me the other night, reading a passage that said, “It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much.  Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully”.  I couldn’t agree more.  It’s deciding upon what vision we would like to focus on out of our breadth of interests that is the most difficult aspect of time to grasp and what I believe has the ability to negatively affect us and interfere with the potential progress towards one goal.

As I attempt to plan the Energy Challenge, it has become more clear to me with each passing day that behavior modification is extremely difficult for any individual in any situation; we must adapt our thoughts before we adapt our behavior.  The challenge to behavior modification is not necessarily the thoughts or actions associated with the behavior itself, but the existing social norms and the way in which we constantly compare ourselves to those around us.  Since it is difficult to see the definitive results of personal conservation efforts, it is a challenge to motivate individuals to make the effort to consume less and conserve more.   In addition, people tend to determine appropriate behavior in viewing their surroundings and the actions of individuals around them.  Our society is swimming in social media and advertisements that focus on consumption and immediate gratification and people whose habits reflect just that.

However, if properly educated on the topic and exposed to examples of energy conservation, it is my belief that people may challenge their current mindset.  Instead of seeing conservation as something that hinders their current quality of life, they may begin to see it as a way to improve their future state, living more sustainably for and with others.  As John O’Donohue stated in his piece entitled “The Art of Developing a Beautiful Mind”, “Your mind is your greatest treasure. We become so taken up with the world, with having and doing more and more that we come to ignore who we are and forget what we see the world with. The most powerful way to change your life is to change your mind.”  Challenging our thoughts, our typical behaviors, is a small way to make a big difference.  By educating ourselves and acting on that education, we inadvertently educate others and impact them in ways we didn’t know possible.  It is my hope that through this internship, I might lead through my example while exposing people to effective motivation techniques so that we might stop watching what others are doing and instead, be confident to make a change ourselves.


2 thoughts on “An Open Mind

  1. Leading by example is a powerful tool. In the four short weeks that I have been around fellow IUOS interns I have found myself adopting new ways to live sustainably in my daily life based on my observations and conversations with my colleagues. However, I am someone who was already environmentally minded. It will be interesting to see how leading by example influences those who do not have an environmental mindset and what challenges may arise.

  2. I always find that the smallest of conversations create opportunities for us to change our minds. It is unlikely that whatever we say to someone will instantaneously change their beliefs or habits–but we can plant the seed. As creatures of habit and condition, we need someone to break the soil and encourage healthy change and discussion of these issues. As professor Sanders mentioned yesterday, find out how these issues appeal to everyone in every moment of time.

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