Jottings: If everything around us is changing, how should you react?
It is difficult not to be nervous about change, particularly as it is unavoidable. Tomorrow we are a day older, and the experiences that we had today have adjusted our perception and reaction to life, that we had assumed yesterday! We do not even realize that it is happening. Our awareness and perception instinctively tell us how best to behave to give us our best results in life. It is a basic reflex that happens and we live with our behavior changing without ever knowing it. The level of this change can be very small or very big in peoples' lives and they can adjust without even knowing that they have. Then we get to the point when the change exceeds our experience, our automatic change adjustment mechanism fails. What do we do? We have no tried and tested solutions. Our lives have been changed beyond our ability to comprehend its scope and impact and our path forward is unknown. What do we do?
In my life, I became, quite by accident, both an implementor of change, and a change agent for many companies. Did I have second sight? Did I see the future? Obviously the answer is "NO" to both questions. Very early on in my career, I became aware that changes in life situations are inevitable, and worse, like the weather, it is not something that can be predicted because of the number of variables that create it. So how do you deal with it?
Knowing that life is constantly changing is a good start, so you never expect tomorrow and the day after to be like today. Of course, change is not always dramatic and swift. It is more often slow and subtle. Living with no clear vision of the future, you stay watchful. For me that meant optimizing over maximizing. We cannot anticipate a change in consumer demand, the effect of a natural disaster, the introduction of new technologies. Even being aware that something is going to happen, you cannot predict when, where, or the ripple effects that it will have. It is easier to bring about change after the change has actually happened for the entity in trouble, and this was my role for most of my work life. Acknowledging that something potentially bad could happen will keep us alert. We are all born with an instinct to survive and as we grow up with our own support systems. We develop our own assumptions regarding our personal survival requirements. The harder the environment you grew up in, the more effective an individual is at knowing how to survive and is less shocked by change. I lived through and in that humanitarian, political and economic disaster called the "Irish troubles". I saw everything change overnight when those who could leave did, and those who couldn't, or did not want to, had to learn to live in this nightmare environment. It taught me a very valuable lesson. Living a "normal" life is fundamental to our personal well-being. Not allowing the disaster going on all around you to stop you living the most "normal" life that you can. Obviously you are keenly aware of what is happening, and you make sure to make sensible decisions that do not put you or others in harm's way. Do you visit your aging parents at the far side of town knowing that there will probably be rioting with house and car burning on the route? Do you visit your pregnant wife in hospital having your first child, with the same travel issues? Do you go to work knowing that the paramilitaries are out there trying to bring the economy to its knees, with threats to anyone traveling to work? These were the very real decisions that I was faced with. We are now living in a period when everything that we have known is about to undertake a massive change. Life as we know it, through no fault of any one individual, will be changed forever. How will you react to this change? For me, I will continue to live the most "normal" life that I can, filled with love, joy and laughter. I hope that you do too.
Roy Houston is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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