Friday, April 1, 2011

(Turn and face the strange)

Evolutionarily speaking, 'change' is both a good thing and a bad thing. Change is the very essence of evolutionary refinement. Change is also what kills dinosaurs. The difference is the rate at which change happens. Evolution involves adapting to a changing environment, and the process of adapting involves the changing of a species. As long as the latter can keep up with the former, everything's copacetic.

It is no surprise then that we have evolved both a fear and psychological need for change. Too much is chaos, and too little is stagnation. Any process of improvement by definition involves change, so change should only be avoided when things are perfect. But even then, the human mind does not enjoy constancy. The brain works on differences. Stare long enough at an unmoving point and a scene will begin to disappear. Remain motionless and you'll begin to stop feeling what you're touching. Spend a few months in a fixed routine and you'll have very little memory of that time passing.

So we should be constantly (or perhaps only often?) seeking change. One pro tip is to be more aware of what can be changed. Form a habit of checking yourself: Contemplate what you are doing in any random moment; notice the details, and ask yourself why they are that way. Then consider what can be changed (and why that might be an improvement). Then -- don't forget this step! -- it.

As for the big changes: Rather than fearing and avoiding them, find ways to stretch them out into a slow, gradual, and manageable process. Acclimate yourself to everything. A new job or new location, even if you win the lottery: only fools rush in.

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