The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not fighting the old, but building the new.
A few Sunday’s ago, I met my friend Tom down at a local restaurant for lunch.
Tom’s profession is that of a middle-school teacher; however his real talent lies in keen observation and then connecting what he sees around him into original thoughts and hypotheses.
While at the restaurant, it was hard not to be distracted by the dozen or so TV screens littered along the walls, each showing a particular football game.
I’ve never known Tom to be a big football fan and I am completely indifferent as it pertains to the NFL, so when Tom told me that school and football had an interesting connection, I couldn’t wait to hear his thoughts.
Tom went on to describe where both school and football shared a unique concept in that they start anew each and every fall.
"School and football are complete ’do overs’ each year... everything that happened last year doesn’t count going forward. The slate is completely erased", Tom explained.
"If your team had a good year last year... then there may be some expectations of a repeat performance... but last year doesn’t count going into the new season.
On the flip-side, if you did poorly last year, all previous sins are now forgotten and forgiven as you start out with a fresh new year in front of you."
I injected into our conversation that a few years ago, I heard Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Symphony, give a talk about teaching young kids to play music.
At the music conservatory where he also teaches, every child in attendance is tested and re-evaluated when the school year begins each fall. The student is then placed in a particular level based on their current skills rather than chronological age (for music only, not core classes).
Once the student is assigned a particular level, they are assigned a grade of "A-plus". Going forward, it’s then up to the individual student to maintain their A-plus by working to improve their skills throughout the year.
Beyond sports and scholastics, I tried hard to think about other everyday situations where we are given an opportunity to take a "do over".
I often find that most things in our lives are fluid and continuous, meaning that although there may be a distinct beginning, there is no real end... it just goes on and on.
We wake up each morning in the same house, next to our same spouse, and then head off to work in our same job doing the same thing.
Most of what we do in life is about making small incremental adjustments rather than throwing everything out and completely starting over again.
Completely changing your life is a difficult thing to do for a variety of reasons:
- The fear of the unknown - it’s better to live in the misery of what you know rather than venture into the unknown. These people live with the constant fear of "it could be worse".
- Inertia - The scientific definition of inertia states that a body will remain at rest or in constant motion along a straight line unless it is acted upon by an external force. Change is predicated by our willingness to do something.
- Martyr Syndrome - We rather be the victim of our environment than to change our situation. By being a victim, we abdicate control of our lives to someone else instead of taking full responsibility.
- Rationalization - Each day we tell ourselves "rational lies" that help us to accept our current situation. My life isn’t as bad as the next person... they’ve really got it bad... so I shouldn’t complain.
It’s only after we somehow find a way to overcome our internal resistance do we finally decide to make a change.
Often, even if we do decide to make a change, the change is only incremental rather than monumental.
We trade the big house for a smaller one (or vice versa), however that the new home is simply on the other side of our familiar town...
We accept the new job but we are still doing essentially the same thing as we did at the old job, but now someone else is paying us...
We have a new spouse, yet there are new things that our spouse does to annoy us and things we’ll find faults with in our new "soulmate".
We may have changed certain elements of our lives... but at the end of the day we haven’t done anything to change ourselves, our attitudes and/or beliefs.
Unless we choose to make a conscience effort to change ourselves, we will continue down the same path as we’ve always gone and continue to be upset that the path leads us to the same spot as we were before we made the change.
While wholesale change is good in some instances, there is also a strong counter-argument that creating change for no apparent purpose or out of boredom can be a major setback to our well-being.
A farmer wouldn’t necessarily pull up his crops after a few weeks just because the plants weren’t producing or because he was bored... he’d give the plants some time to mature and start producing results before making any changes.
I often wonder if much of the restructuring in corporate America occurs simply because the company’s leaders are devoid of any real ideas to create better results.
Creating change for change’s sake is simply a ruse to create a diversion that takes away people’s attention from the lack of true results and helps to buy the leaders more time.
There are definitely instances where riding out the storm is more prudent than making a quick change... leaping from the frying pan to the fire... or throwing the baby out with the bathwater (or whatever cliché you’d like to use)...
Although it might well work in sports or academia, perhaps it’s not necessarily a good thing to constantly be starting over from scratch and/or making wholesale changes just because we are simply bored.
To be or not to be... that is indeed the question...
...now if we only had the right answer.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we are in the game for the long-haul.
Jim Kalb President
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