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This work was inspired by Newt Gingrich as I read through his latest book, “To Save America.”

We have all heard the expression, “Change You Can Believe In.” It is designed to invoke a deep emotional response that leverages a constant dissatisfaction with the status quo and an unending belief that life can always be better. It is one of the most powerful five word sentences on the planet today. But change does not always equal progress and it is the implied promise of advancement that makes us all believe in this expression. So how do we measure the Progress of Believable Change?

Progress has been the study of scientist for hundreds of years. We have studied progress in our school systems by measuring and evaluating test scores (standardized testing). We are measuring the progress of cleaning up the Gulf coast oil disaster by measuring the amount of oil entering the ocean and being removed (not much to report in the way of progress right now). But surprisingly, few, if any, have truly studied the progress of believable change. Why?

The answer to this question was actually easier to find than one would think. A quick search of the Internet reveals that studying the progress of believable change has been hampered by the lack of a meaningful measure. In essence, you truly can’t measure or study what you can’t define. So let’s take a cut at a practical definition of progress.

There are many ways we could define the Progress of Believable Change, many would strive to do so qualitatively in a rhetorical fashion. I, being more of a scientist, chose to look at it quantitatively, based more on emotional measures. This is where Emotional Equations can play a role. For me, the simplest emotional equation for measuring the Progress of Believable Change is:

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Progress is dependent on two factors: the ability to resist changes in what you believe (denominator) and the ability to change what matters (numerator). Let’s apply this to politics, just to test it out shall we. It will require a bit of math, but I think we can handle it. If you believe that providing more (increasing) universal healthcare plus carbon emissions controls plus redistributing wealth (all in the numerator) are good, will giving up (reducing) personal choice plus individual responsibility are acceptable, then progress is being made (progress = increased / decreased = bigger number = more progress). On the other hand, if you don’t believe in universal healthcare plus carbon emissions controls plus redistributing wealth and you don’t want to give up personal choice plus individual responsibility, then progress isn’t being made (progress = deceased / increased = smaller number = less progress). It’s a equation capable of measuring all perspectives of an issue.

We need to replace “Change You Can Believe In” with “Progress You Can Count On.” While it isn’t as sexy and doesn’t grab the headlines as much, it is more in line with our values. True progress will only be made when we hold on strong to those things that mean the most to us while changing those that matter. Doing so will maximize the Progress Emotional Equation in a way we can all trust.

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