We are all constantly impacted by change. Things manifest, are created and appear and then they decay, dissipate and disappear.
Nothing lasts forever. Well that’s not strictly true – no THING lasts forever.
In my experience, most of us are deeply ambivalent about change. On the one hand we generally welcome new things appearing in our lives yet on the other hand we feel deeply threatened by change and it is the source of a great deal of stress, hassle and strain.
The tipping point is choice
Change that I choose is welcome - but change that is imposed upon me is not welcome.
The way our minds work, we automatically create what we perceive to be MY life and it is usually all nicely packaged up with clear boundaries defining my own personal sense of who I am and how things are.
Functioning, as we do, in this way - things are seen as separate and largely static, our perception and general experience is that time proceeds in a linear manner from past to future, there is "me here" and the world "out there", and there are events and things that I don't like that happen to me.
This is our "default setting" – and so much of what we do is motivated by our deep inbuilt need to keep things as they are - to preserve the boundaries around "my life" - to preserve MY survival and MY safety and MY comfort.
So change – and especially imposed change - becomes something to be avoided and/or resisted, unless it’s on my terms and within my control.
This immediately creates a problem for most of us because we are now living through times of great turbulence and many of us are experiencing imposed change that seriously affects all areas of MY life.
As Harvard professor John Kotter has said, the scale and pace of change that we are all experiencing is faster than the rate at which organisations are improving, and (worryingly) he feels that gap is increasing. Kotter also suggests that much of this change cannot often be planned for and thus it pushes leaders and followers into positions that require adaptive solutions.
This perspective is very much in line with Charles Darwin’s famous observation that:
"It isn't the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change"
To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr:
We need the courage and the capacity to adapt to the imposed change when it is possible to DO something
We need to know how to stop resisting and to accept imposed change when it is NOT possible to do something
We need the insight to recognise the difference and to determine the most resourceful response