In this post I’d like to think about change and how we view it.
Not so long ago, life was generally a done deal. You grew up, worked in your chosen profession your whole life, probably had a family and that was pretty much it. At most stages you had a fairly good idea of what was coming next.
These days, that looks like a very quaint and outmoded view of existence. The pace and variation of life has increased exponentially in the space of a couple of generations, and now volatility and regeneration are the norm.
“There is nothing permanent except change.” (Heraclitus)
Yet for many people the prospect of change is unsettling, and as the pace of life in the twenty first century gets ever faster, as a society we seem to become more and more risk averse.
Well, I’d like to argue in favour of change and how to embrace it.
I think the key lies in calculating the risk. If the advantages and disadvantages of a potential shift have been fully considered, then the choice is essentially between taking an opportunity or staying put, with the danger that persistent reluctance to alter your ways leads to stagnation.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Having said that, it’s not just a case of making a decision and going with it. The subject of change speaks very deeply to the human psyche and there can be some powerful elemental forces that stay our hand before we jump into something new.
What we believe about ourselves and the world around us is a major factor in determining how we act. If we have low self-confidence or self-esteem, or regard the world as a hostile environment, we will be more inclined not to take that leap forward. Addressing these fears and beliefs is a tough but necessary part of learning to accept the march of progress.
Suppose for a moment that we accept the challenge of changing.
In my view, this can open up a whole raft of possibilities. We never achieve anything of note by sticking where we are and applying the same thought processes we’ve used in the past to no avail. By thinking differently and re-prioritising we can use the process of change as a stepping stone to get us to where we want to be. In other words, the only way to exit a situation of adversity is to apply action, and by definition that implies a change.
Progress = Ambition + New methods
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” (Stephen Hawking)
When we make adjustments willingly, we act proactively and, therefore, remain in control of a situation because we are taking decisions and acting on them in order to gain a specific outcome. However, when change catches us on the hop our response is reactive. The element of control has evaporated and we are left in a catch up situation.
Which is better: initiate change and be in control, or react to it and be left with no choice?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” (Maya Angelou)
For those who are still sceptical about embracing something different, be reassured by the notion that it doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, the process of change can be broken down into distinct phases:
- Being absolutely set against it
- Opening up to the idea
- Trying it out – taking tentative steps
- Embracing it wholeheartedly
- Keeping the process going and looking for the next challenge
The phases can last as long as seems appropriate and you can backtrack at any time if you feel uncomfortable!
My own relationship with change has evolved over the years.
I used to be the kind of person who clung onto security and certainty, but as I got older I realised how many opportunities in life had passed me by because of my reluctance to reach out and grab them. Now I’m of the opinion that the cost of guaranteed stability is too high, and to remedy that I’m now willing to step out of my comfort zone with increasing regularity.
What cost are you willing to bear to maintain the status quo?
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoy)