In this period of fast-moving changes in what we have taken for granted in our lives, it may be easy to fall into a sentiment of moral apathy and anguish. Threats to democracy and social unrest in more and more countries, job losses caused by the COVID-era, heightened geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and in far-east Asia, a very dry summer putting more pressure on the access to water- you name it. The reasons to be concerned are countless.
Countless are also the periods of uncertainty that humans have lived through in history. We could argue that the number, speed, and amplitude of changes we are facing may be unprecedented. This would be without counting on the speed with which we are exposed to information and the global, interconnected, and interdependent world we have built. We are not used to absorbing such a rate of change without some unusual levels of stress.
First: Paying Attention To How We React to Changes
Have you recently paused for a minute and asked yourself how you are currently reacting to what is going on? We tend to be fully concerned with what is going on out there and wondering what is next. And we may even include ourselves in the observed phenomenon, witnessing that our daily routines have been disrupted, our job may have been completely transformed or even lost, and our personal life and occupations are nothing like a year ago.
If you could now square yourself out of all these outside changes and quietly observe what is going on with you internally, what would you say your overall reaction to the changes has been so far? Are you afraid, hoping for your lucky star to show up and show you the way? Are you in hope of a future time where things will go back to “normal?” Are you in a state of confusion or denial of the changes? Are you in fight mode, trying to be stronger than the circumstances? Have you given up while waiting for the tide to wipe your world out? Are you frozen with fear? Are you angry, looking for whom to blame for “this mess?” Are you experiencing a mix of all of these? There is inherently nothing wrong with having these reactions, actually avoiding having a reaction would be artificial. The problem arises when these reactions install as the norm, experiencing them once when you grasp an aspect of the change is fundamentally different than having them at play day-in and day-out.
Second: Owning Your Reaction
We can do little to fight against the reactions we experience in the face of change, at the moment we are aware of a change in our environment. Yet, we can do a lot in dealing with this reaction as long as we recognize that who has the reaction is us ourselves, and reject that the external circumstance to which we react be the source or the cause of the reaction. In some cases, it takes enormous courage because we are trained to think that what happens to us is “caused” by some external conditions. As a phenomenon, our body and brain do generate our emotions, our thoughts, and our sensations when we perceive what is going on and changing in our surroundings. While we cannot really control the immediate reaction, such as fear, we can definitely affect the persistence or non-persistence of this reaction over time.
Once we are clear that we have something to do about how we are going to experience the situation, the question becomes: how can we create a mindset that makes us experience the change in a powerful manner? By powerful, we mean: hear that the situation would not limit our capacity to act creatively in the circumstances to adapt to the change in a way that fits our commitments in life.
Third: Taking a Stand and Rewriting the Story
Each time our certainties get shaken by an unforeseen event or change and we react against the change in one form or the other, it may come from having the impression that what we value as important–our values–is threatened. We are confronted to make a choice: either to give in to fighting against the situation or reaffirm what we stand for, what is critically important, and act accordingly. The context of thinking at that moment is critical. What we are standing for, be it freedom, love, creativity, prosperity, solidarity, etc. is a quest with no beginning nor end. Our expression or how we live our values is not conditioned by external circumstances or standards. They are conditioned by the force we put into living them, whatever the changes and adversity we face in expressing them.
It is up to us to choose whether to indulge in helplessness in the face of change or to stand up for what we cherish, with a renewed passion for creating and inventing new ways to express our values. When acting for what we stand for becomes what preoccupies us daily, no one or nothing can keep in a miserable mindset or emotional state for long with regards to what is going on currently in the world. We have the power to write the story. And as the saying goes, “what does not kill you make you stronger;” each time you overcome an automatic disempowering reaction, you will find yourself even more agile to deal with the next black swan event that arrives.