Why change is so hard and what you can do about it

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The World has turned upside down in the past decade. That’s very exciting and scary at the same time. No matter how you feel about it, the fact is that there is going to be a hell of a lot more of changes in our lives in the future. The concept of so called technological singularity explains that the pace of change has been accelerating fast throughout history and that means the future will bring even more new radical changes (and uncertainty).

We are directly on the edge of the next, fourth, big revolution – the biotechnological revolution. Robots will become more human and we will become more like robots. We will have self-driving cars, drones, we will live on other planets, nano-robots will cure our illnesses and so on. Yes, with all the new technology the world will become even more exciting place to live, but also more complex, fast changing and (mentally) tough.

Tech changes

Speed of technology change will soon be vertical on the graph above . How can you cope with that?

Therefore it makes sense to analyze why we resist new things and changes so much and cling to certainty at all costs and what you can do about it.

Simplified, we like certainty, because it makes us feel safe and secure. Even though the change is the only real constant in life, besides taxes, we hate it. This hate towards change is written in our genes for millions of years as a mechanism for survival in the dangerous world.

Not that long ago, you could very easily have gotten killed (in the jungle for example) and to be frank, you still can in some parts of the world. Even if you live in the 21st century and there is no tigers that can eat you, your brains and biological-emotional system still lives in a jungle (or the most dangerous parts of the world). An unknown and unstable environment most often brings threats to you and to your life. This is how you experience change on the emotional level. Certainty brings higher probability of safety and survival, simply because you know what you are dealing with.

In addition to that, every change demands effort to adjust. Think of how annoying it is for the first few times when Facebook implements a new change on their site.

So there are the two main reasons why we don’t like change:

  • Something new = Potential danger (not to survive or mate)
  • Something new = More effort to adjust and learn (more struggle)
  • More changes = More stress
  • The paradox = Only r(evolution) leads to more safety and better life

There is one important trick in the whole picture. With gradual change (evolution) we can usually manage the pace of change quite well (spear to a better version of spear), but when it comes to the big changes – revolution or disruptive innovation (spear to gun) we feel more threatened at our existential level. And when we are dealing with an existential threat, we have encoded a survival response mechanism in our genes.

When we don’t feel safe and secure on existential level there are three possible responses: fight, flight or freeze. All the three responses are extremely stressful for our bodies.

The important fact is, that our need for safety does not stop at the physical level, at the level of life or death threats. The same formula applies for psychological challenges. When we feel we won’t be able to fulfill our desires and expectations towards life, due to colossal internal or external obstacles, we usually have the same response – fight, run or freeze.

None of the responses are good in today’s time. You don’t live in a jungle anymore. You can’t fight information overload. You can’t fight market complexity. It’s like trying to save the Titanic with a small pot; or fighting against 100 tigers at once. As an alternative you could run, but you’d miss out on the whole meaning of life and throw away an opportunity to really enjoy the benefits of today’s world. Freezing, however, is the worst. It means nothing but living in fear and hoping that things will get in order by themselves somehow. When we freeze in life, we become like zombies. Not really living life but just passing through; waiting for death to come.

Fight Flight
Burn out yourself with fighting the unstoppable trends, blame technology and capitalism. Deny progress, don’t use new technologies, think about good old days and back off to isolation.
Freeze Transcendent
Become a zombie, wait for life to pass away, watching TV, and wasting time on social networks. Understand and optimize your mindset not only for efficiency, but also for adaptability.

So what can you really do about it?

Understand and transcendent

The good news is that there is a fourth alternative to fight, flight or freeze. It’s the fundamental part of the agile and lean life. The fourth alternative is to understand and transcend. Transcend only means that you develop a virtue how to live a quality life in an unpredictable and fast changing world and even more that you live life with purpose that is stronger than any problem or change you encounter.

You have to decide if all these changes are, and will be, a problem or an opportunity for you in the future. The situation doesn’t differ from the moment when fire was invented. You can get burned with fire or you can cook a delicious dinner. The choice is yours. Remember, every change is a threat or an opportunity.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and stuck in all the complexity, you can take advantage of it and build the dream life you want; the dream life that was quite impossible to live until now, especially if you are not the type for uncertainty. You just have to understand, use the right tools and transcend. Here is the magic trick:

You have to start optimizing your life not only for efficiency, but also for adaptability. The same as nature does.

Here are a few ideas how:

You can find many similar ideas how to optimize your life for adaptability on this blog. Managing life will only get harder in the future; with more uncertainty, more global competition and more things to master. But if you play your cards right, you can also live the most exciting and fulfilling life ever in the history of mankind.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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