A long long time ago in a galaxy not far away even on the same planet where you are reading this the pace of life of slower. Most people used public transport because cars were expensive, shoes lasted a few years with a cobbler’s help here and there and even contacting a family member in another city could take a couple of weeks if they did not have a phone.
It was also a predictable living. My grandfather worked at a weather station in his 20s went to war to fight the nazis came back and continued working at the same place, reluctantly retiring in his 60s. People read the same papers, went to the same shops and watched the same TV channels for years.
And then life started accelerating almost like a fast-forwarded VHS recording. Technology and clothing were probably most obvious with governments and regimes collapses in some unfortunate cases. Advances in technology enabled us humans to develop collectively at a much faster pace.
Shared experiences through TV and then the Internet helped to learn from others exponentially faster that researching things on our own or spending days in the library looking for the right information. I expect that the acceleration will continue with the rise of AI tools in an unexpected way. The Skynet is unlikely to become self-aware based on John Carpenter’s script but will replace jobs, automate and optimise a lot of things (including the one I am doing right this very moment)
And yet we find change uncomfortable and move away from it. Terms like change fatigue are used to describe resistance and lack of motivation in response to too much change. There are always people around us who are comfortable with the new environment. Early adopters and children jump right into the vortex of change riding the wave of new cool until it becomes a new norm.
Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski speaks in one of my favourite videos on the nature of stress using the story of a lobster he read while waiting at a dentist. Lobsters a soft animal living in a hard shell that protects them from predators. Lobsters grow bigger and the shell becomes uncomfortable. Recognising that the change is necessary the crustacean sheds its old shell and hides under a rock until a new one grows.
There is a big lesson to be learned from this animal we normally see sold in a supermarket. Change is always uncomfortable but it’s also necessary for growth. While adapting to the change it is normal to feel vulnerable. And lastly, after watching this video I can’t eat lobsters because they are cool creatures.
Another interesting observation is that often if we are reluctant to change the external circumstances will force us. In this case, we may not like how it happens. An example is someone delaying a visit to a dentist because they are afraid of pain. Getting a tooth implant when it is too late will cost ten more times than patching a little hole. The same goes for careers, mortgages and failing relationships.
The best scientifically proven approach that I learnt comes from the Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. Seeing change-related stress as a chance to grow and get stronger reshapes how we respond to it. It reduces the hormonal responses and lets us square up to the challenge. The stereotypical “it’s all in the head” rings true. It is the oppositver of “what does not kills us makes us stronger” in this case of stress. Change is good but only if you allow it to be.
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