Change: An uncomfortable constant.
December 30, 2022
December 30, 2022
The nature of life is that the only constant is change. Nothing is static; instead, everything moves amongst that which is around it. From the tiny shifting cells that make up our toes to the wide-reaching impact that our feet have on the ecosystem of our shared planet, these continuous transformations happen on vastly different scales.
But let’s not get lost in the metaphysics. Somewhere in the middle of this overwhelming spectrum of interconnectivity are our direct relationships with others – which ripple outwards in all directions.
Think about a past version of yourself – the person that you were ten years ago. What were you focused on? What struggles did you face? What were you proud of? And with all this in mind, what has changed since then?
Now consider: What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time? Sure, there is the temptation to give the wishful answer of some winning lottery numbers, but if we take the question more seriously most of us would want to share some wisdom we’ve garnered since then. And in so doing, spare ourselves the struggle of learning it the hard way.
Perhaps a part of this exercise ignites some discomfort around the ignorance of youth – who amongst us hasn’t done something we’re embarrassed of later in life? Beyond this, it’s worth noting that this contrast between past and present self is indicative that we haven’t been stagnant in life. Rather, we’ve all changed and the lessons learned along the way are healthy signs of growth.
You’re not the same person you were a year ago. Your workplace is not the same place it was a year ago. The world is not the same place it was a year ago. In all of these cases, the path from then to now was anything but straight. Alas, we are stuck fumbling forward into the unknown as the time machine remains a figment of science fiction.
Deep inside, we all know that there is room for self-improvement. Who would deny that they’re a work-in-progress? Yet despite this, when a colleague comes to us with negative feedback about how we can improve we still get defensive. This is a moment of cognitive dissonance; an illogical response that occurs when our internal monologue goes, "I know I’m not perfect, but I want you to see me as doing well".
There are two contexts that tend to trigger cognitive dissonance in all of us:
Cognitive dissonance results in all-or-nothing thinking. As we’ve explored with a bit of Biology 101, it’s really hard in these moments to think clearly and find space to consider what is actually true.
In the face of constant change, cognitive dissonance naturally arises. And so we get defensive, even if it might not make sense. When this happens, how can we manage it? We remember: this too will change.
Just like change can be a source of discomfort and unease, it can also be the solution to dealing with missteps and challenging situations. We learn, we experiment, we reassess…and that’s human. Perhaps looking back and feeling embarrassed about our past selves is a good sign – it means we are evolving and growing.
What if we could embrace this line of thinking and shift our internal monologue from, "I’ve done it this way for all these years, so why should I change now?" to, "Different world, different time…so different things will work!"
With openness, we can try new strategies and in so doing steer change in a more helpful direction.
Change is one of a myriad of internal factors that prompt our inner monologues towards a stance of defensiveness. These thoughts in turn spill out as actions, both of which tend to escalate the situation at hand.
In our core online course, Dealing with Defensiveness, we explore our relationship to these sorts of triggers and ways to better manage our fiery responses.
We’re in a massive period of change in the world. Fighting this fact can only lead to suffering for ourselves and those around us, so let’s instead work to improve our relationship with it.
We don’t need to get stuck with our defenses up. Let’s continue to fumble forward together. Be kind to yourself and others, embracing change rather than fighting it.