Personal development: Harness the power of the ‘Ebenezer effect’


Personal development expert Matthew Cossolotto hails the power of an unlikely self-help hero.

This time of year, it’s worth considering several valuable lessons we can learn from Charles Dickens’ memorable miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens tells the story of a wealthy miser whose name has become virtually synonymous with words like ‘heartless’, ‘stingy’, ‘penny-pincher’, ‘tightwad’ and ‘moneygrubber’. But those adjectives miss the message of the story. It’s really a tale about redemption and personal transformation. The way I see it, Ebenezer Scrooge should be hailed as one of the great role models for personal change. In the story, Scrooge comes face-to-face with the effects of his lifetime of negative habits and attitudes when a series of imaginary spirits escort him to scenes from his past, present and potential future.

The first apparition to pay him a visit is Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells Scrooge: “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” The links of Morley’s chain sound like they could well be the same negative habits and attitudes that also shackle poor Scrooge. After Scrooge encounters disturbing events from the Past and the Present, the ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come transports him to a time in the future when Scrooge’s loyal employee Bob Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim, has just died. Why? Because his father couldn’t afford proper medical care on the meagrealary Scrooge paid him. Upon hearing this news, Scrooge is forced to confront the tragic result of his cruel stinginess, and this has a deep emotional impact.

Scrooge is then escorted by the ghost to a time just after his own funeral. Here he endures the painful, unvarnished truth of what people really think of him. It’s an alarming but invaluable wake-up call for the stone-hearted curmudgeon. Soon thereafter Scrooge comes face-to-face with his own tombstone. Dickens writes: “The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.” Spurred on by this shocking, upclose- and-personal rendezvous with his own mortality, Scrooge asks the Spirit to assure him that he “yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” He exclaims to the Spirit: “I am not the man I was. I will not be that wretched creature any longer.” Scrooge feels an intense motivation to change his ways, and he is indeed transformed overnight.

He awakens the next morning, Christmas Day, a changed man. Delighted to still be alive with a chance for redemption, Scrooge exclaims: “I am as light as a feather. I am as happy as an angel. I am as merry as a schoolboy!” That’s the power of what I call ‘The Ebenezer Effect’. A key lesson for us to consider is that personal transformation can happen quite suddenly, even overnight, if you believe it can and if you have the right motivation. As Napoleon Hill wrote: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Another life-changing lesson from Scrooge is that we all have the ability to project ourselves into the future and imagine what people are likely to say about us after we’re gone. Scrooge almost waited until it was too late. The good news is you don’t have to wait for a ghostly escort service or a near-death experience. Fortunately for all of us, the Ebenezer Effect is available at any moment. You can take this journey anytime you want through the power of your own imagination.