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Aristotle, Aquinas, and Cardijn ~ The Big Deal

What was a big deal for Aristotle was a Big deal for Thomas Aquinas, and Guess What? It was a big deal for Joseph Cardijn.

See-Judge-Act.  Order-Disorder-Reorder


Getting to the root cause was a big deal for Joseph Cardijn; getting to the root was a big deal for Aristotle. The concept of Occam's razor you might remember from your philosophy or science classes—the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely one. Well, Occam enhanced and promoted the Aristotelian root cause analysis and called it "Occam's Razor. "

We find Thomas Aquinas enhancing and using the root cause analysis method, and we see Joseph Cardijn utilizing the method as he incorporated it into the See-Judge-Act model.

The old phrase about keeping things simple is the key to proper order, especially when establishing the foundation of that order first in our life or business. The way we do this in life is by keeping things simple by shrinking them. In other words, we start with the GENERAL or UNIVERSAL and move to the SPECIFIC or PARTICULAR. In other words, we are creating patterns in our life. Our task in creating order is translating significant target outcomes into small—even tiny—behaviors that serve us well and make sense. Making change little, safe, and doable makes change easy. Framing the objective one little, particular habit at a time.


When it comes to that time in our lives or the life cycle of our mission, we realize that what once worked well seems to be not working as planned or is causing more grief and frustration, and we start to understand that change is necessary. But what is happening now is a brand new learning experience. We realize that in our life cycle, it is not only 'me 'who has to learn and change but all those around us. The focus is on new education, understanding, and acceptance, but most of all, unlearning. To these ends, Aristotle knew that to produce "good and virtuous citizens for the polis" (think Cardijn in that quote), he needed to foster proper discipline and methods of formation—and habit-breaking, too—in his systematic approach to teaching.

In the world of Aristotle, virtue is practical (goodness, in our case, being awareness); think of Cardijn's three truths and the relationship between virtue and goodness. Think about the purpose of the greater good, which is to become competent, not merely to know. This is what Aristotle called Eudaimonia. Cardijn was talking about the three truths. Aristotle knew that to bring about the necessary change and focus on objective truth and reality, you would have to build the behaviors that would ultimately lead to the desired outcome and the required change in the current situation.

For Joseph Cardijn, the three truths are:

  1. A truth of faith.  The eternal and temporal destiny of each young worker and all the young workers.

  2. A truth of experience. A terrible contradiction exists between the young workers' natural state and this eternal and temporal destiny.

  3. A truth of pastoral practice or method. There is a need for a Catholic organization of young workers with a view to the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny. ~ Joseph Cardijn

Education and Collaboration engage us all in ways they will appreciate as relevant, helpful, and worthwhile—even within the narrow contexts of their specific job functions. It is through awareness of education that one becomes self-motivated. 


While education and Collaboration are essential components of change, they are rarely sufficient to bring about real, ongoing, lasting behavioral change. As we all learned from decades in the educational system, passing a test does not automatically translate into know-how and action. Our behaviors must be developed and fostered, not only taught. This is a process of ongoing improvement. And that takes practice and persistence. Aristotle relied upon repetition as a key to developing good habits. In our study hall, the words were engraved on the center wall: "Repetitio est mater memoriae," which is the key to sustainability in learning and behavior.

Change does not sit; it is a continuous process of building—and sustaining—excellence. The ongoing reinforcement phase, which we call "reorder," is crucial to maintaining the difference.

There's one other vital aspect in ensuring the success of your behavior change initiative. The leadership around you must not only endorse the desired behavior but model it, too. As Aristotle said, "He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander." Only then can you bring about a culture of ongoing improvement and awareness? 

I like to say, "Change is healthy for the soul," but only when you know where you're going and why it's worth it." Plan your work and work your plan.


"Give me leaders, and I will raise the world." ~ Joseph Cardijn

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