While emailing with a friend last week about some needed change I was dealing with he reminded me of the Latin phrase that 16th Century Protestant reformers applied to their movement within the Church, “Reformata et semper reformandum” (Reformed and always reforming). His variation, applied to the situation I was dealing with was, “Invented and ever reinventing.” The key words are ALWAYS and EVER.
Things change…they have to change…they will change…I can’t prevent it (change) even if I try.
But is that true? Are their constants; things that never change? As I Christian I believe God is the same today, yesterday and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) But, my experience in life is that change happens whether I like it or not…just look at our bodies!
I find myself changing in appearance but not necessarily on the inside. I remember my 80-year-old grandfather saying once, “I feel the same as I did when I was 18–until I look in the mirror!” And I saw him developing patterns to help him cope…he was actually reinforcing the lack of change on the inside. Who wants to be stuck at 18?
I believe we develop behavioral patterns that allow us to cope with the world around us. These routines are a part of everyday life and most of us don’t stop to think about them…some people call these behaviors ‘ruts.’ While the idea of repetitive behaviors, or ruts, has somewhat of a bad connotation (read BORING), hey, some of us like boring. Your repetitive responses allow me to predict who you are and how I should interact with you. That makes my life easier.
But were the protestant reformers correct? ALWAYS reforming? Only as a pattern of behavior that became a habit.
A little book I recently read called, Pleased But Not Satisfied, speaks to this issue. While speaking primarily about organizational leadership, the author asserts the principle that we can never be totally happy with who we are or where have arrived; we must be in a state of continual improvement. Ugh…
Change is never easy, and mental models are hard to break. The older I get the more I understand this. Over time I develop attitudes and behaviors that are repeatable…they become familiar. They make sense of the world around me (that is changing!). They become my version of reality or truth. Those things that fall out of my experience are NOT truth. New experiences or ways of doing things cannot be good or better because I have no frame of reference for them. If I’m not careful, I develop a bunker mentality that informs my responses: anything happening outside my bunker is bad. My bunker is safe.
If I want to change there’s a huge challenge to overcome: the momentum created by my current behaviors. In addition, I find that there’s a mental game going on. My behaviors are often dictated by my view of the world or how I perceive reality or truth. To change I have to overcome the mental models I’ve developed and the momentum that my mind, and behaviors, push me toward inhibiting my ability to change.
The truth is I really don’t like change. I like the status quo. It’s comfortable, like the old pair of jeans I never want to throw out. I’ve spent lots of time getting those pants to fit me just right! What I fail to see are that they’ve faded to the point they don’t look good anymore. What kind of marketing is that? Comfortable fit…that’s the way I like my jeans (OK, good marketing), but is that really how I want to lead my life? Good looking jeans become faded. They need to be thrown out. I need a new pair. What was once relevant is no longer. I cross a line where I no longer see that the thing that was once ‘good’ has actually become a negative. Even the jeans need washing and/or I need a new pair from time-to-time.
Love it or hate it (there are opinions on both sides), the allegory Who Moved My Cheese? causes me to think. We have choices in life: we can sit around saying, “They keep moving my cheese” and be mad about it, or we can move to the new cheese and enjoy it. It’s a choice. If nothing ever stays the same, and it doesn’t, then I, too, have to work at changing and enjoying as much of it as I can. But it takes effort…developing habits that cause continual re-examination. Little things make a bit difference so developing patterns early-on in life help leading to a philosophy of life that I m invented and ever reinventing. It will pay big dividends over time.