Let’s change into something more comfortable

December 4, 2010

No one has to change. Survival is optional.” – W. E. Deming

The above was a subtle way to express the importance of change. Deming was absolutely right; if you can not change, you will not survive. Making it even more acute is the fact that we’re surrounded by change all the time. Time itself is but a measure of change. We all know that change often can be painful, but lacking the ability to change is usually even more painful.

Being that the ability to change is the single most important trait for survival and success, it surprises me that we don’t spend any time purposely practicing it. Our parents and teachers seldom or never help us learn how to cope with change. How come learning the details of photosynthesis or German prepositions are given precedence over learning how to cope with the inevitable changes that we have to face everyday?

My guess is that most parents and teachers don’t know how to cope with change themselves. Most of us have never been given the specific tools for living in a society of constant and rapid change, a society demanding that we change with it. The implications are that we bring out our defense mechanisms instead of going with the flow. Some people become submissive when facing new technologies and go into hiding instead of embracing the possibilities they offer. Some people become hateful against new cultural influences instead of enjoying all the new flavors that they bring into our lives. People grow ulcers from the stress rising from resisting changes in their environment. What is true in this for us as individuals is equally true for organizations. Most organizations will rather march slowly downward toward a predictable death than change their old habits.

The thing is that there are tools out there. Tools that can help us recognize the different stages in a change and help us move through changes with a minimum of pain. There are tools to help us anticipate changes and cope with them in a structured way. We can learn to become secure in our capabilities instead of feeling safe in what we already know.

The problem is that these tools are usually in the hands of a small number of therapists and other professionals. So why don’t we claim these tools and why don’t we demand the opportunity to learn how to use them? Why don’t we call for the teaching of them in our schools?

Change is naturally awkward, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We should all be able to embrace change and regard it as an exciting opportunity to arrive at something better than what we have today. But in order to get there we need to learn how to feel secure and comfortable with our own abilities and we can only get there through practice.

Let us all change into something more comfortable, comfortable with ourselves and our abilities to meet the unknown.

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