The Courage to Change

‘The courage to change’ was the theme of last night’s ‘Omaggio a Divizia’ conference held in the Sala Rosa on the first floor of BdL’s Circolo dei Forestieri


The speaker, Dr Salvo Noè from Acitrezza Sicily, life-coach, psychologist and psychotherapist was introduced by mayor Betti and the conference was chaired by deputy mayor, family doctor, theatrical entrepreneur and exponent of a holistic approach to life, Vito Valentino.


One had to be alert and well-versed in Italian to take in the exuberance of the messages Dr Noè imparted to us. The general thesis, however, was that if one complains ‘why do these things just happen to me?’ then one is not the victim of circumstances – rather one is the victim of one’s own doing because one hasn’t the courage to modify one’s perception of the world.

Like other animals, we are creatures of habit. In my life, for example, there is a built-in routine of waking up in the morning, feeling bad if I’m still in bed after a certain hour (my cats will soon tell me if I’m oversleeping by pouncing on me while still in bed), and then the usual daily ablutions, the feeding of my menagerie, the watering of plants, the writing of a post, the day’s organizational diary, the daily walk etc. etc.

There are habits which are good to nurture as they also form a protective cushion around one’s life but there are others which are definitely worth considering either discarding or changing radically. Dr Salvo Noè has worked on intra-personal relationships in many different areas. Most visibly, he’s worked with couples and families, with schools, with football teams, with carabinieri and other crime-busting squads in all parts of Italy and has published a number of books which encapsulate his approach.

Simply put, we must find the courage to overcome the fear of changing ourselves if things regularly don’t work out. If one can change an energy supplier or a telecommunications firm because one isn’t happy with it then why is one frightened of changing or re-moulding oneself? Women have the upper hand here because they can more clearly change their appearance through make-up or a beautician. But these are merely external changes. The general dynamic is ‘I think, I feel, I wish.’ E.g. I think things may not be quite right the way I am handling them (they keep on producing the same unwanted result), I feel bad (in a clinical not a criminal easy, I would add…), I wish for change, I will change.

I thought of the Descartian maxim ‘cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am) and realised that it could be reversed into ‘Ego Sum ego cogito.’ (I am what I think).

I noted down a few of the phrases Dr Noè said.

“No-one can find the best way of doing something without starting with the wish of really wanting to do it in the best way”.

“Courage is not the absence of fear. On the contrary it is the capacity to act despite the fact one feels frightened.”

“Fear is not your enemy. It’s an indicator able to direct you to those areas you need to develop most.”

“Courageous people certainly feel fear but they will not allow that fear to immobilize them.” (At this stage I thought of extreme sports).

“Excessive fear is linked to the lack of competence. (Competence being the combination of knowledge, the capacity to import this knowledge and correct behaviour in carrying it out – I thought of my own experiences in teaching and realising at an early stage that knowing one’s subject wasn’t enough: one had to impart it with confidence and deliver it with enthusiasm.).

“Practise makes perfect” (as any sportsperson, artist or artisan knows as second nature.).

“Those who lack courage will find that negotiating fear will see a great weight lifted off their backs.”

“Fear becomes a habit.” (I thought of a habit becoming very close to being an obsession.)

“Without courage (literally and etymologically ‘without putting our heart into it’) we shall never achieve our potential.” (As the great Goethe said “one day fear knocked at the door. Courage came to open it but found no-one there.”)

At this stage Noè showed us a picture of a pair of scales where fear and courage were equally balanced.


The keywords to positive change are habits and mentality. Positive change is change that has been intelligently applied to one’s advantage to produce an improvement, rather than suffering under it, so that we are able to change it into real progress.

Dr Noè suggested that this notice should be placed in prominent positions in one’s work or home environment (‘It’s forbidden to moan’.):


A considerable discussion ensued after the talk. There were clearly dissenting voices. How could one talk about quality time with one’s family if one wasn’t married with children oneself? And why shouldn’t Italy’s increasing army of unemployed (especially young) people and the victims of the recent seismic disasters be forbidden to moan, or at the very least complain?

It was, however, a generally stimulating evening and I wholeheartedly agree that most negative things that happen to one are due in many instances to the way one copes with them, rather than being regarded as further examples of the bad luck one is supposedly singled out to be afflicted with.

PS In case you didn’t know who Divizia was, she was an unassuming, even ugly (with a goitre), peasant girl at Bagni who was noted by Montaigne, during his visit to the Bagni di Lucca in the sixteenth century as possessing amazing extempore poetical skills despite her illiteracy and who knew the chivalric epic of Ariosto by heart.




3 thoughts on “The Courage to Change

  1. Dear Francis, thank you for your beautiful article!
    I think Rudyard Kipling expressed this so well in his poem, If-

    ‘If you can dream- and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think- and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build’em up with worn out tools;’

    Kind regards, Jane.

      • Dear Francis,
        We sit in uncomfortable places in our lives, because it feels familiar, and the courage and energy required to change seems impossible!
        Your article ‘The courage to change’, inspired me….
        Thank you, Jane and her cat Alfeo.

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