The Four Essentials for Managing Change

The Four Essentials for Managing Change

Be Attentive

Be Attentive

Change can be scary. We humans are creatures of habit, and we can become very comfortable with the way things are, and accustomed to the normal ways in which we do things.  Even some of our behaviours become automatic in that we can perform them without even pausing to think, so it can be a big deal when change is on the horizon, either through our own initiation, or being directed by others such as ‘Management’.

How do we initiate or manage change in our lives? Bernard Lonergan SJ proposed four main principles known as the Transcendental Precepts as a basis for personal growth and self-knowledge. Whilst the precepts were proposed as elements involved in the process of attaining authenticity and self- transcendence (moving beyond ourselves), they are also essential ingredients in the discernment of the need for broader change and for responding to change in our lives in a constructive way. The four precepts ensure that we approach change in a considered and productive manner, whether we be instigating change in our own lives or implementing organisational change affecting many people.

Briefly expressed, the four precepts are: 1) Be Attentive, 2) Be Intelligent, 3) Be Reasonable, and 4) Be Responsible. Some of the detail for using these precepts as Essentials in the model for change may be as suggested below, however there may be additional aspects and questions to be asked with each Essential for a particular change matter.

1.      Be Attentive

–           To the need for change (for myself/others/the group)
–          To how the change will affect me/others
–          To the reactions and responses of others

2.      Be Intelligent: Engage enquiry

–          What is the nature of the situation/desire for change? Why should I change it?
–          Does the whole situation need to change or just parts of it?
–          Understand others’ viewpoints
–          What is the best course of action to take? Consider all the change options.
–          What are the risks and what are the benefits of the change?

 3.      Be Reasonable

–          Does the evidence support this need or opportunity for change? Be honest!
–          Is this action realistic or necessary or desirable? For me? / others?
–          Am I expecting too much (or too little) of myself or others?

 4.      Be Responsible

–          What are the costs and benefits of the change, financially, socially and
morally, and is it in the best interest of me/others/the group?
–          Do I have the resources to move in this direction?
–          After reflecting on all these aspects, do what you believe is right
–          Have I engaged others along the way? 
           (particularly important if you are a group leader)


This framework can help us to include all the relevant aspects involved when engaging in major (or not so major) change, and is likely to result in change for the better, more so than if we just cruise along without much thought or plan.

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  1. Excellent 4 step guide Margaret. It’s doable

  2. These 4 precepts sound sensible and definitely apply to how I want to change towards feeling more hope for the future in my life. Focusing on the present all the time isn’t quite right for me, I know. I’ll take a copy of the basic 4 and keep them on my laptop.

    • Margaret Lambert says

      I think the concept of living in the present does not need to be at the exclusion of reflecting and learning from the past and planning for the future. If we don’t have these other time perspectives in our sights, we miss out on the learnings and the possibilities.

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